Opening up to the World: An Exploration of Residents’ Opinions on and Perceptions of St Helena Island’s Tourism Development

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St Helena Island, often regarded as one of the most remote places on earth, is an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom and generally considered geographically as ‘part’ of Africa. Economically, the island is wholly dependent on British aid. Once important as a stop for trading ships for some 400 years, the island has suffered the same problems faced by many other small island economies: a lack of natural resources, diseconomies of scale, net outmigration, and a dependence on aid and remittances. Tourism has been earmarked as an important sector which has the potential to contribute significantly to the economy of St Helena, especially after the completion of the St Helena Airport. The purpose of this research reported here was to determine the level of tourism development on St Helena since its ‘opening up’ to the world after the first passenger flight touched down in 2017, by applying Butler’s tourism area life cycle model and Doxey’s irridex model. These models provided the framework for qualitatively determining the level of tourism development. An e-survey was conducted among residents about their expectations of tourism development. St Helena has been trapped in the involvement stage for decades while being inhibited by its remoteness and accessibility issues. It is clear from the evidence that some of the island’s tourism characteristics relate to the involvement stage, whereas others are synonymous with the development stage. It is thus reasonable to argued that St Helena currently lies in a flux between the involvement and development stages of the Butler model. The opening of the airport is conceivably the springboard necessary for leaving behind all the impeding features of the involvement stage.
Donaldson, R. & Forssman, A. (2020). ‘Opening up to the World’: An Exploration of Residents’ Opinions on and Perceptions of St Helena Island’s Tourism Development. African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, 9(6):944-958. DOI:
St Helena Island, tourism development, irridex, tourism area life cycle model, tourism impacts