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Tourisme, sécurité et violence multidimensionnelle

Residents’ Perceptions of the Impacts of Tourism on the Quality of Life in a Tourist Island Destination: Evidence from Tobago

Percepciones de los residentes sobre los impactos del turismo en la calidad de vida en un destino insular turístico: evidencia de Tobago
Perceptions des résidents sur les impacts du tourisme sur la qualité de vie dans une destination insulaire touristique : données probantes de Tobago
Wendell C. Wallace


Tobago, la plus petite île de la République de Trinité-et-Tobago, est très touristique et dépend presque exclusivement du tourisme pour vivre. Tobago est connue pour sa beauté, sa paix et sa tranquillité et est souvent surnommée "la capitale du paradis". Toutefois, ce surnom est en train de s'estomper en raison de la dépendance croissante à l'égard des touristes et du tourisme, qui apporte son lot de bienfaits et d'inconvénients, tels que le développement économique, l'augmentation de la criminalité et l'impact sur la qualité de vie. Bien que le tourisme ait un fort potentiel d'amélioration de la qualité de vie des résidents, le nombre d'études menées à cet égard est limité. En outre, bien qu'il existe quelques études sur le lien entre le tourisme et la qualité de vie, les opinions des résidents des destinations touristiques insulaires sont rarement utilisées pour alimenter ces études. C'est pourquoi cet article présente les perceptions des résidents de Tobago, une île touristique des Caraïbes, quant à l'impact du tourisme (local et étranger) sur la qualité de vie (socioculturelle, économique et environnementale) de l'île. Les données ont été collectées auprès de trente (N=30) habitants de Tobago en utilisant une approche qualitative par le biais d'entretiens semi-structurés, analysées par le biais d'une analyse thématique et présentées de manière descriptive. Les résultats indiquent que le tourisme n'a pas amélioré la qualité de vie des habitants de Tobago, que la criminalité à Tobago est le fait de délinquants autochtones et que l'augmentation de la criminalité à Tobago n'est pas due au tourisme. Quatre thèmes se dégagent de l'étude (augmentation de la criminalité, croissance et développement, délinquants autochtones et peur de la criminalité) et les implications pour la politique et la pratique sont également discutées.

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1Globally, tourism has fast become a very common and important phenomenon, especially for developing countries and regions (Lisowska, 2017) and this includes small island developing states (SIDS), for example, Tobago, the smaller island of the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. While tourism has generally been perceived as making important and positive contributions to the development of countries in the Caribbean (Johnny & Jordan, 2008; Wallace, 2009) as well as in other parts of the world (UN World Tourism Organization, 2019), it is increasingly being viewed in a slightly different context (Lisowska, 2017). Indeed, tourism is increasingly being touted as ‘both a blessing and a blight’ (Poon, 1993) as it is argued that tourism introduces strangers to local communities, and this can lead to social issues such as crime and deviance (Lisowska, 2017).

2In Caribbean contexts, several studies have been conducted in the 21st Century that explore the impacts of crime on tourism (Alleyne & Boxill, 2003; Johnny & Jordan, 2007; Lorde & Jackman, 2013; Mohammed & Sookram, 2015). Quite notably, there are other studies on tourism, tourism and crime, as well as on tourism and policing in the Caribbean (Lewis-Cameron & Brown-Williams, 2022; Mohan, 2022; Wallace, 2009; 2020; Wolf, 2008). However, scholarship examining the impacts of tourism on the quality of life (QOL) on local communities in small islands is understudied and sparse (Kim, Uysal, & Sirgy, 2013), and this includes small islands in the Caribbean. Further, scholarship using residents as proxies for research aimed at understanding the impacts of tourism on the quality of life in tourist island destinations is even more limited (See Andereck & Nyaupane, 2011; Ridderstaat, Croes & Nijkamp, 2016 as exceptions). Quite worryingly, scholarship measuring residents’ perceptions of the impacts of tourism are generally non-Caribbean in nature (See Andereck et al., 2005; Andereck & Nyaupane, 2011; Eusébio & Carneiro, 2019; Garau-Vadell, Gutierrez-Taño, & Diaz-Armas, 2018; Ramkissoon, 2023; Ross, 1992). In sum, while there is a range of recent literature on tourism in the Caribbean (Lewis-Cameron & Brown-Williams, 2022; Mohammed & Sookram, 2015; Mohan, 2022; Sheller, 2021), what is lacking is how Caribbean residents perceive the social impacts of tourism on their QOL, hence the purport of this article, using residents of Tobago as the study’s participants.

3As a result of the historical limitedness of research on tourism’s impact on the QOL at tourist destinations (Eusébio & Carneiro, 2019), this study attempts to include, but also to go beyond perception research on the tourism industry and considers tourism’s impacts on the QOL of residents at a tourist island destination. Furthermore, much of the available tourism research focuses on two major constituencies, namely: (1) residents of host communities, and (2) tourists (Uysal et al., 2016). Research on the first constituent analyses the changes in QOL of local residents in tourist island destinations as a result of interactions with tourists which makes an important contribution to the social life of residents by providing a host of opportunities. Research on the second constituent examines with the relationship between tourism activities and the QOL of tourists as they participate in touristic activities in order to increase their QOL in mental and physical terms (Griffin & Stacey, 2011). Importantly, this study is focused only on the first constituent mentioned above.

4There is no singular definition of quality of life (QOL). For instance, Delibasic et al. (2008) notes that QOL is the degree of well-being felt by an individual or group of people. On the other hand, the World Health Organization Quality of Life Assessment [WHOQOL] Group (1996, p. 453), asserts that the term quality of life (QOL) refers to “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns.” Therefore, an individual’s quality of life is guided by evaluations with regard to that individual’s objective living conditions. According to Kim (2002), quality of life has been categorized in five domains including: material well-being, community well-being, emotional well-being, and health and safety well-being. In this study, QOL is conceptualized using the definition espoused by the World Health Organization Quality of Life Assessment [WHOQOL] Group (1996), while material well-being, community well-being, emotional well-being, and health and safety well-being were used to measure the quality of life (Kim, 2002) of residents in Tobago’s communities. This study has a singular focus on residents of the tourist island destination, Tobago, and was aimed at answering three research questions (RQ), namely: RQ1: Has tourism improved the quality of life for residents in Tobago?, RQ2: Are the serious crimes in Tobago committed by tourists?, and RQ3: Is the influx of tourists to Tobago the cause of increased crime on the island?

1. The Study’s Context

5Trinidad and Tobago is a Caribbean nation located about seven miles off the northeast coast of Venezuela. Tobago is part of the archipelagic State of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, a twin island state with a combined population of 1.3 million. Tobago, the smaller of the two islands, is often referred to as the “sister isle” and is situated at latitude 11o    8’ to 11o    21’ north and longitude 60o 30’ to 60o 51’ west. The island is approximately 41 km long and 12 km wide (at its widest point) and is oriented WSW‐ESE. Its landmass is 300 square km or 116 sq. miles (30,100 hectares) (A Comprehensive Economic Development Plan for Tobago, 2006 – 2010, p. 3).  Tobago has an estimated population of 55,000 (C.S.O, Trinidad and Tobago Population and Housing Census, 2000). The majority of the population (70.6%) resides in the west, and 29.4% resides in the east.  Tobago lies 32 km to the North‐East of Trinidad. Tobago is very dependent of tourism for its survival. This dependence is evident in the work of Invest Trinidad and Tobago (InvesTT) (2019) who pointed out that the tourism industry in Tobago accounts for 50% of the island’s GDP and that in excess of 56% of the island’s workforce is employed in the industry. Tourism is the ‘lifeblood of Tobago’ and tourism on the island is developed on the notion of it being the last Eden of the Caribbean destinations, with its natural attractions as the main pull factor for tourists.  The island is best known for its blue balmy waters, lush rain forests and beautiful beaches. Located off the South‐West coast of Tobago is the Buccoo Reef where fascinating and exotic corals and fishes reside (Wallace, 2009). The content of this article is based on interviews with residents of Tobago (See Figure 1).

Figure 1: Map of Tobago

Figure 1: Map of Tobago

Source: TomTom, 2023.

2. Importance of the study

6This study is important on five distinct, yet interrelated grounds. First, the majority of existing studies on tourism have generally placed focus on tourists as victims of crime and have examined the impacts of crime on tourism, not tourism on crime, despite tourism being a double-edged sword with both blessings and blights to tourist destinations (Poon, 1993). Second, most of the available scholarly literature on tourism do not focus on the quality of life of residents at tourist destinations and this is the case with the Caribbean. Therefore, scholarship on the effects of tourism on the quality of life of residents at tourist communities is sparse (Aref, 2011; Kim, 2002). Third, the extant tourism literature that examines the quality of life in tourist destinations generally do not include Caribbean jurisdictions (See Alaeddinoglu, Turker, & Can, 2016 on Turkey; Aref, 2011 on Iran; Gil-Saura & Ruiz-Molina, 2019 on Spain; Manap, Aman, & Rahmiati, 2011 on Malaysia, Nordin, Ismail, & Jamal, 2020 on Malaysia; Eusébio & Carneiro, 2019 in Portugal). However, it is argued that the results of those studies should not be universalized to island destinations as this is problematic because issues, results and solutions do not manifest themselves in the same manner everywhere (Milan & Treré, 2019).

7Fourth, determining the perceptions of residents towards tourism is an important tool in the evaluation of tourism development and sustainability (Alaeddinoglu et al., 2016). Therefore, based on the pronouncement of Alaeddinoglu et al. (2016), this study is important as Tobago is a tourist destination and there are palpable impacts of tourism on the quality of life of residents which should be examined. Fifth, QOL can be measured at the individual, family, and community level (Uysal et al., 2016). However, most of the available studies have focused on QOL at the individual level with only one study by Torkachuk et al. (2016) having used a combination of variables measured at the individual and community levels. Considering this, the current study is both important and novel as it measures perceptions of crime on the community level and perceptions of impacts on the individual level in a similar manner to Torkachuk et al. (2016). Finally, there is insufficient scholarship summarizing the results of the limited studies conducted on the impacts of tourism on QOL to be able to conclusively determine the impact of tourism on the QOL of people in tourist destinations (Nopiyani & Wirawan, 2021). Therefore, this study is also of much import as it contributes to the limited body of existing scholarship on the topic under inquiry in the context of making a determination of the impact of tourism on the QOL of residents at tourist destinations.

3. A Look at the Literature

8In this study, residents’ perceptions refer to the general feelings held by residents towards the impacts of tourism on their QOL which can be either positive or negative with respect to the economic, socio-cultural, and environmental impacts of tourism (Andereck & Vogt, 2000). On the other hand, it should be noted that tourism impacts fall generally into the categories of positive and negative impacts (Aref, 2011; Nunkoo & Gursoy, 2012; Ozturk et al., 2015) as well as mixed impacts (Aref, 2011). Quite notably, tourism is a complex industry which provides employment opportunities and tax revenues and supports economic diversity. Without a doubt, tourism provides significant economic benefits, for example, creating employment and additional income in host countries (Cannonier & Burke, 2019; Delibasic et al., 2008). For example, Constanţa (2009) submits that tourism can increase QOL which is carried out in various forms: rest, relaxation, recreation, maintenance of tone, knowledge development, sense of taste for beauty, and aesthetic feelings. Similarly, a study by Kim et al. (2013) indicated that tourism positively influences general life satisfaction of local residents, while Ap and Crompton (1993) note that tourism provides elements that improve QOL, such as, employment opportunities, tax revenues, economic diversity, festivals, restaurants, natural and cultural attractions, and outdoor recreation opportunities. In a similar vein, Alaeddinoglu et al. (2016) cogitate that tourism enhances the quality of life of communities by providing employment opportunities, increasing investment, improving standards of living and local services, and increasing recreational activities and environmental quality. A host of other researchers have found that QOL at tourist destination have increased as a result of tourism and this includes the provision of services and employment (Sarı & Özdemir, 2014; Küçük, 2014; Saatcı & Ülkü, 2014; & Turker et al., 2016).

9While research on tourism has highlighted the importance of the tourism industry in the context of revenue generation, improved services and improved job opportunities, similar research has indicated the possibility of negative consequences, for example, the development of criminality (Kokkinos & Kapardis, 2015). In sum, tourism can be both a blessing and a blight and has been known to have both positive and negative effects on host destinations (Capó, Font & Nadal 2007). Lasso and Dahles (2018) and Parra-López and Martínez-González (2018) also indicate that tourism is a double-edged sword for tourist island destinations, especially smaller ones, as they suffer the negative effects of tourism more than other destinations. Parra-López and Martínez-González (2018) also submit that this is because of the characteristics of island destinations and the negative impacts arising from their inadequate management by different stakeholders. In a similar vein, Gil-Saura and Ruiz-Molina (2019) point out that tourism activities may involve significant negative impacts on the quality of life in tourism destinations.

10Instructively, in a six-island study conducted by Cambers (2006) which aimed to identify the main issues that concerned islanders, tourism growth, decline in moral and/or traditional values, and increased crime and violence were identified within the top ten areas of priority concern. Nejati et al. (2014) explored local residents’ perceptions towards the impacts of tourism in two islands in Malaysia and found that some residents associate tourism with negative impacts on the society, as they perceive tourism to increase drug abuse, sex, drinking alcohol, and criminal activities in the tourist destination communities. In a similar vein, Joo et al. (2019), Ribeiro et al., (2017) and Nunkoo et al. (2013) found that some common negative impacts of tourism on tourist destinations included increases in vandalism and crime, alcohol abuse, and prostitution, while Adeola, Evans, and Hinson (2019) point out that tourism may lead to higher crime rates at tourist destinations.

11As a manifestation of human behaviour, tourism is sensitive to crime and is immediately affected by it (Nkosi, 2010). However, as Nejati et al. (2014) and Suntikul et al. (2016) reminds us, criminal activities (one aspect of QOL) also appear to be sensitive to and impacted by tourism as impacts derived from tourism on the local community are drugs, alcohol, increases in criminal activities, and prostitution. Quite notably, the intersection of tourism and crime is a complex phenomenon and thus difficult to study (Kokkinos & Kapardis, 2015). Additionally, tourism studies are challenging for many decision makers when deciding whether the positives of tourism outweigh the negatives (Kokkinos & Kapardis, 2015).

12This article is premised on an evaluation of the social impacts of tourism on the QOL in a tourist island destination, namely, Tobago, the smaller island of the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The interest in this is premised partly due to the attraction that tourists have for these types of destinations as well as the need to promote their sustainable management as tourism destinations (Hall, 2011; Cave & Brown, 2012; López, Orgaz, Marmolejo & Alector, 2016). In addition, tourism in island destinations constitutes an opportunity for economic development and benefits both the local population and its visitors (Fabinyi, 2010; Porter et al., 2015). Therefore, there is an existing problem related to the shortage of scholarship on the perceptions of citizens in tourist island destinations, for example, Tobago, regarding the issue of whether tourism has improved the QOL for residents. Instructively, as local community are directly impacted by tourism (Iazzi et al., 2020), it is important to explore residents’ perceived impacts of tourism on their quality of life. Without a doubt, this article contributes to the academic research on tourism-crime nexus at tourist island destinations by providing much needed research on the topic under inquiry.

4. Theoretical framework

13It is important in academic research to proffer theoretical perspectives underpinning any scholarly manuscript. With this in mind, theoretical perspectives on exchanges between tourists and residents as a component of tourism as well as on islandness are presented to provide a foundation for this paper. To undergird this study and to explain residents’ perceptions of the impacts of tourism on crime and the quality of life in Tobago, the Social Exchange Theory and a theoretical perspective of islandness are presented.

14As tourism experiences involve human interactions, certain impacts may occur. Generally, social impacts in tourism are related to guest-to-host and/or host-to-guest influences and changes. Studies of these encounters often relate to the Social Exchange Theory, which describe how the behaviours of tourists and hosts change because of the perceived benefits and threats they create during interactions (Nunkoo, 2015). Ap (1992, p. 668) describes the Social Exchange Theory as “a general sociological theory concerned with understanding the exchange of resources between individuals and groups in an interaction situation.” Ap (1992) further explains that individuals at tourist island destinations engage in a process of interaction where they attempt to receive something that is either of material, psychosocial, or social value. Andereck et al. (2005) submit that in this interactive process, exchanges must occur for the occurrence of tourism to be established. In this sense, both residents and tourists develop and promote the interactions, but it is the residents who must then serve the needs of the tourists. The result is that some residents may reap benefits, while others may be impacted negatively. From the tourism perspective, the Social Exchange Theory cogitates that individuals’ attitudes towards the tourism industry, and their subsequent level of support will influence their perceptions and evaluations of the impacts and outcomes of tourism.

15Gursoy, Jurowski and Uysal (2002) reminds us that perceptions of the exchange emanating from the tourist/resident interaction may vary. For example, individuals who perceive a positive outcome from their interactions are most likely to evaluate the exchange in a different way than an individual who perceives it negatively. What this means is that individuals who perceive benefits from the interactions are more likely to evaluate tourism more positively, while individuals who perceive the interaction to be non-beneficial are likely to evaluate tourism negatively. Thus, residents perceiving themselves benefiting from tourism are likely to view it positively, while those not, negatively (See Figure 2).

Figure 2: Explanation of Factors leading to tourism impacts

Figure 2: Explanation of Factors leading to tourism impacts

Source: Wallace, 2023.

16The importance of the tourism industry to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) relies on their “islandness” as tourism contributes to the socio-economic development of SIDS in many ways (Giampiccoli, Mtapuri, & Dluzewska, 2021). Therefore, as Tobago is an island within the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as a SIDS, it is imperative that a brief theoretical perspective of islandness is proffered. Quite interestingly, contemporary research in island studies have suggested that islandness appears to be taking precedence over previous descriptions of islands as ‘insular’ (Telesford, 2021). While the change suggested by Telesford (2021) is occurring, Royle and Brinklow (2018, p. 11), points out that “islandness is meant to embody the essence of island living, the attributes that make an island what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, without which it loses that identity”, while Randall (2021, p. 100) submits that “islandness is associated with a sense of place and belonging that connects people and communities with their natural and social surroundings in tangible and intangible ways.”

5. Materials and Methods

17As this study aimed to gather rich, deep, contextual information on the impacts of tourism on the QOL of residents in Tobago, a premier tourist island destination in the Caribbean, a qualitative approach was used to gather the data from a wide cross-section of individuals. The study was advertised on community chat groups, community notice boards, police chat groups and local tourism organization notice boards. A semi-structured interview guide was created from previous literature on the tourist-QOL nexus at tourist destinations as well as from previous instruments on the topic under inquiry (Alaeddinoglu et al., 2016; Gil-Saura & Ruiz-Molina, 2019; Nordin, Ismail, & Jamal, 2020).

18Thirty individuals responded to the advertisement by contacting the researcher. Due to the researcher and the participants not being in the same location, the interview guide was emailed to some participants (n=10) as requested, while the researcher conducted Zoom interviews with other participants (n=20). To clarify unclear issues, follow-up telephone calls were made to the participants who were sent the interview guide via email. Data saturation, or the point in the research process where enough data has been collected to draw necessary conclusions, is widely recognized for determining sample size and measuring its sufficiency in qualitative research (Vasileiou et al., 2018). In this study, data saturation was reached after the thirtieth interview was conducted; thus, adding additional interviews would no longer contribute new themes. Therefore, the sample size for this study (N=30) was deemed sufficient.

6. Analysis 

19The data in this study were analysed using thematic analysis to find patterns across the data of the participant’s (Clarke & Braun, 2017). Narratives from the semi-structured interviews were read several times to ensure familiarity and then transcribed verbatim. Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six-step approach to thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. The following process was used by the researcher: reading and re‐reading of the transcripts, coding of the data into initial themes, clustering the codes into common themes, iteration (checking themes and quotes), narration (description of themes using quotes to support the themes), and contextualization or interpretation of the findings relative to the topic. Confidentiality and anonymity are proffered in the analyses by replacing the participants’ real names with non-identifiable terms, for example, participant number 1.

7. Study participants

20Thirty individuals participated in this study. The study included a wide, diverse and representative cross-section of individuals who are residents in Tobago. Persons who participated in the study included police officers, religious leaders, vendors, taxi drivers, teachers, tourism providers, public servants, news reporters, local residents, university students, lecturers, and medical practitioners. The participants were nineteen males and eleven females who ranged in age from nineteen to sixty-three years, with an average age of forty-six point seven (46.7) years. Seventy percent of participants had daily contact with tourists, twenty percent had contact with tourists on three to five occasions per week, while ten percent had occasional contact (once or twice per week) with tourists to Tobago.

21The participants in this study represented diverse locales in Tobago, for example, Bethel, Buccoo, Calder Hall, Carnbee, Castara, Charlottesville, Crown Point, Louis D’or, Lowlands, Mason Hall, New Grange, Mt. Pleasant, Mt. St. George, Patience Hill, Plymouth, Roxborough, Scarborough, Signal Hill and Whim. On average, the participants had resided in Tobago for fifty-five (55) years. Based on the wide representation of participants from throughout the island, their diverse jobs, frequency of interactions with tourists, and their length of residence on the island, the sample is adequate to produce insights on tourism impacts on the quality of life in Tobago.

8. Findings

22The findings presented in this article emanated from a thematic analysis of the narratives of the thirty study participants. The study aimed to answer three research questions (RQ), namely: RQ1: Has tourism improved the quality of life for residents in Tobago?; RQ2: Are the serious crimes in Tobago committed by tourists?; and RQ3: Is the influx of tourists to Tobago the cause of increased crime on the island? In this study, QOL is measured using five domains (material well-being, community well-being, emotional well-being, health and environment well-being, and crime and safety well-being), the findings will be discussed according to the domains before a final determination of the impacts of tourism on the QOL of residents is proffered. As the study is qualitative in nature, participants quotes are used to illuminate the voice of the participants (Wallace et al., 2021). The quotes are selected based on their applicability to the study’s findings.

23Twenty-eight participants answered RQ1 (Has tourism improved the quality of life for residents in Tobago?). Sixteen of the participants indicated that tourism has not improved the QOL for residents in Tobago, while twelve participants indicated that tourism has improved the QOL for residents on the island. As QOL in this study was measured using five domains, it is necessary to indicate which domains were supported and which were not. As it relates to the crime and safety domain, the participants indicated that in their view, crime had increased, but that there was no improvements in feelings of safety as a result of Tobago being a premier tourist island destination. Of the other four domains that were measured, the participants submitted that material life, emotional life, and health and environment life wellbeing did not improve as a result of tourism. On the other hand, the participants supported the community life wellbeing domain as having improved as a result of tourism to the island. As it relates to RQ2 (Are the serious crimes in Tobago committed by tourists?), twenty-two participants were of the view that serious crimes committed in Tobago were not committed by tourists to Tobago, while four participants submitted that serious crimes committed on the island were committed by visitors to the island. In answering the third RQ (Is the influx of tourists to Tobago the cause of increased crime on the island?), sixteen participants held the view that increased crime in Tobago was not a result tourism, while ten participants supported the position that it is the influx of tourists to Tobago that has caused crime to increase.

9. Themes

Four major themes emanated from the participant’s narratives, and these are discussed in the following paragraphs.

24Theme 1 – Increased crime

The most prevalent theme that emanated from the data elicitation process on the narratives of the study’s participants was increased crime. A 52-year-old female local resident voiced her opinion in the following manner: “Tobago as a tourist destination is now attracting local tourist from Trinidad. The amenities now provided in Tobago is seen from the increase in gambling, prostitution, and apartments and rooms for rent for a night for illicit activities”, while another participant submitted, “I strongly believe that Tobago is a beautiful island, hence the influx of tourist. However, high and increased crime rates committed by mostly local tourists have left an unwelcoming view of our island” (36-year-old, Female public servant). Similarly, another participant opined: “As much as tourism improves a wider scale of job opportunities and the work quality is higher, it also it also causes a higher crime, pollution and sexual assaults” (33-year-old Female tourism provider). Instructively, a 54-year-old news reporter was of the view that “Tobago tourism is just a title without any substance. If, for the natural beauty of Tobago and the generally warmth of the residents, tourism impact on the island could and should have been the main driver of GDP and it would have had a meaningful and positive impact to keep plenty of the crimes at a low level. However, because of how the tourism industry is structured, the benefits to the greater majority of its workforce has not materialised and so we are left with a fight (and increasing crime) just to get some of the spoils.”

25Theme 2 - Growth and development

According to a 53-year-old male senior public servant: “It [tourism] is good for the island. However, it must be managed strategically to increase repeat visitors (a premium on safety) and revenue, preserve the local culture and environment while contributing to the growth and development of the island.” Another participant submitted the following: “I believe it is a positive thing. It increases the demand for services provided by service providers on the island particularly small business providing these services and as such increases their income earning” (53-year-old Male local resident). In a similar vein, a 58-year-old female schoolteacher espoused the view that “The influx of local, regional and international tourist to Tobago creates more avenues for the increase of jobs on the island and the opportunity for our locals to showcase our culture in a more meaningful way.”

26Theme 3 – Localized criminals

The presence of crime committed by residents of Tobago was a theme emanating from the narratives of the participants. According to one participant:

“I have seen the advent of tourism in Tobago from inception in the early 1980s, especially in rural parts of the island. While tourism has bought many benefits to Tobago, I have noticed an appreciable decline in morals and by that I mean, young girls are getting in sexual relationships with tourists for favours (money or overseas trips), young males are liming and hoping to marry a tourist and head off to Europe, people no longer want to plant gardens and well crime, that has increased one hundred fold in Tobago. Many people are blaming tourists for increased crime in Tobago, but we have to wake up and realise that most of the crime on the island are done by home grown criminals” (54-year-old Male lecturer).

Another participant submitted: “The influx of local tourists has increased the drug trade and criminal activities on the island. It has opened up the residents of Tobago to criminal activities that were never experienced on the island before. For instance, increased murders by firearms and the explosion of the drug trade” (51-year-old female public servant). In a similar vein, another participant submitted: “Major infractions of crime committed in Tobago are hardly, if at all, committed by tourists to Tobago” (54-year-old Female school teacher).

27Theme 4 - Fear of crime

Fear of crime was another theme that was gleaned from data elicitation of the participants’ narratives. One participant stated: “Court cases need to be dealt with quicker so as to act as a deterrent to criminal behaviour and reduce fear among potential tourists to Tobago” (53 years old Male local resident), while another cogitated, “At one time before tourism explosion in Tobago, I would leave my house unlocked, but now, I have CCTV and burglar-proofing on my family home as I am very fearful of crime” (54-year-old Male lecturer). Instructively, one participant proffered the following comment: “Because crime is highlighted so much in the media, tourists are becoming afraid of visiting Tobago” (54-year-old Female schoolteacher).

10. Discussion

28The results of this study can be interpreted in the context of both the Social Exchange Theory and the theoretical perspective of islandness. Most of the views espoused in this article do not support positive tourism impacts on residents of Tobago, while admittedly, there was some positive perceptions. This lack of support may be because of negative interactions between tourists and residents as espoused by the Social Exchange Theory. On the other hand, the islandness perspective supports the perceptions whereby tourists are seen as ‘invaders’ and not contributing much to the island. The results of this indicate that tourism did not improve the quality of life for residents in Tobago. This position has found previous support from Nejati et al. (2014) and Suntikul et al. (2016) who noted that aspects of QOL are negatively impacted by tourism as impacts those impacts include drug usage, alcohol, increases in criminal activities, and prostitution, all which does nothing to improve the QOL for residents at tourist island destinations. An interesting revelation emanating from this study is that most crimes committed in Tobago were conducted by homegrown criminals. This position is rather novel as within recent years, talk show hosts, residents of Tobago and conjecture has suggested that most of the crimes committed in Tobago were conducted by individuals who are not residents of Tobago. Another key finding in this study on tourism impacts on QOL in Tobago is that the participants opined that increased crime in Tobago was not a result tourism. This finding is contrary to early tourism-crime studies which found that tourism is a major cause of crime at tourism destinations (McCool & Martin, 1994; Poon, 1993).

11. Implications for policy and practice

29There are implications for policy and practice in the context of this study. However, to relate the findings presented in this article to practice and policy, it is first important to understand a few key issues related to the current state of the tourism-QOL relationship. Foremost is the growing recognition of the double-edged sword nature of tourism. Designed to improve the QOL of residents globally, tourism was never intended to act only in a beneficial manner towards residents at tourist island destinations. In fact, there is a growing recognition that the tourism industry alone cannot provide all of the necessities of life at these destinations and that there may be less than desirable social impacts on residents QOL. Poverty, environmental degradation, increased crime, deterioration of culture, and an array of social problems as well as difficulties inherent in the tourism industry have made it difficult for tourism to be viewed solely in a positive light. Within the context of the findings presented in this study, another policy and practice issue that has emerged that tourism executives, legislators and policymakers should consider as they attempt to determine how best to serve residents at tourism island destinations is how to best ensure that the benefits as well as the blights of tourism are evenly balanced.


30This study was conducted as there is limited scholarship on residents’ perceptions of the impacts of tourism on the QOL at tourist island destinations in the Caribbean and set out to specifically understand how residents perceive the impacts of tourism on QOL in Tobago. Without a doubt, measuring the impact of tourism on the quality of life of residents in Tobago can aid legislators in crafting tourism development goals for the island. From a scientific perspective, this article is premised on the notion that residents’ perceptions of the impacts of tourism can influence their support for the tourism industry and this speaks to the importance of this article, especially in Tobago’s context as one of the most tourist reliant countries in the Caribbean. The findings of this study indicate that tourism has not improved the quality of life for residents in Tobago, crimes committed in Tobago were conducted by homegrown criminals, and that increased crime in Tobago was not as a result of tourism. Instructively, studies conducted in SIDS within the Global South, for example Tobago, remains scarce (López-Guzmán et al., 2013; Ribeiro et al., 2013) and this justifies the need for the current research. Further, considering the gap in the tourism literature, this study which focused on Tobago, contributes to the expansion of the scholarly literature on the topic, develops theorizing on residents’ attitudes within the tourism literature, and offers valuable insight for policymakers and practitioners in similar tourist island destinations.

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Titre Figure 1: Map of Tobago
Crédits Source: TomTom, 2023.
Fichier image/png, 311k
Titre Figure 2: Explanation of Factors leading to tourism impacts
Crédits Source: Wallace, 2023.
Fichier image/png, 27k
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Wendell C. Wallace, « Residents’ Perceptions of the Impacts of Tourism on the Quality of Life in a Tourist Island Destination: Evidence from Tobago »Études caribéennes [En ligne], 57-58 | Avril-Août 2024, mis en ligne le 30 avril 2024, consulté le 17 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Wendell C. Wallace

The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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