A Clemson University professor has returned to campus after conducting five months of immersive tourism research as a Fulbright Scholar on the hospitality and tourism-centric Eastern Caribbean Island of St. Lucia.
Last spring, Lauren Duffy, associate professor in the Clemson University Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, earned a Fulbright Scholar Award and the opportunity to expand her cross-cultural teaching and research experience during a semester abroad. Her term concluded in December 2022.
During her time in St. Lucia, Duffy studied whether tourism has the potential to support a resilient future for the island nation – one that faces unique development challenges as a small island developing state (SIDS). She chose St. Lucia because its economy, like many Caribbean nations, is overdependent on tourism and extremely vulnerable to external shocks.
“St. Lucia is well-known for its tourism industry, but it is primarily driven by foreign-owned, all-inclusive properties that create high levels of economic leakage,” said Duffy. “There is a desire among residents to identify sustainable, community-based partnerships that could strengthen the positive economic impacts for local communities.”
Through her research, Duffy identified creative opportunities to support linkages between tourism and other industry sectors, such as agriculture. She also looked for ways the country could tap into the emerging blue, green and orange economies (i.e., marine, environmental and cultural economic systems) – areas with a natural connection to tourism.
In addition to larger questions of resiliency, her research focused on how current tourism policies are shaping the livelihoods of workers, particularly those who work in public spaces – on beaches, in markets and outside of resort properties. Most beaches in the Caribbean are private – open only to beach resort patrons. However, St. Lucia maintains public beach access to all citizens and tourists, a topic that has caused some tension between residents, policymakers and tourism investors.
Duffy joined Sir Arthur Lewis Community College where she taught contemporary issues in tourism and international tourism courses within the Department of Sustainable Hospitality and Tourism, a four-year program to earn a bachelor’s degree in tourism.
Classes at Sir Arthur Lewis are designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to enter the island workforce – and many students work part- or full-time in a related field and attend college to gain a deeper understanding of industry practices and principles.
Since returning to Clemson, Duffy hopes current and future students will benefit from her global-minded approach to teaching. She looks forward to incorporating her experiences and research findings into class discussions and encouraging students to engage with other cultures to learn more about their respective disciplines.
“The entire Fulbright Program experience is perspective changing,” said Duffy. “It challenged my thinking and enhanced my global understanding of tourism. And I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring back rich, impactful examples to share with my students this spring.”
Duffy plans to publish her research and share key findings with Sir Arthur Lewis this year. She is hopeful the experience will lead to student exchange and study abroad programs, so students at both institutions can gain first-hand knowledge of each culture’s approach to tourism.
The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management is part of the University’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences (CBSHS). Established in July 2016, CBSHS is a 21st-century, land-grant college that combines work in seven disciplines – communication; nursing; parks, recreation and tourism management; political science; psychology; public health sciences; sociology, anthropology and criminal justice – to further its mission of “building people and communities” in South Carolina and beyond.
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