The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts has congratulated the Castara Tourism Development Association on Castara’s selection for participation in the upgrade programme of the United Nations (UN) World Tourism Organization's Best Tourism Villages initiative.
Castara was among three tourism-based villages, including Siparia and Lopinot, submitted by the ministry for consideration. The north-eastern Tobago community was selected from approximately 130 applications from 57 countries.
According to the UN organisation, a Best Tourism Village label is awarded to a village that is “an outstanding example of a rural tourism destination with recognised cultural and natural assets that preserves and promotes community-based values, products and lifestyle…and has a clear commitment to sustainability in all its aspects.”
Villages that do not fully qualify to receive the Best Tourism Villages label, but have the potential, are accepted into the upgrade programme. Castara was recognised as one of 20 villages with this potential and, under the upgrade programme, will receive support from the UN World Tourism Organization to improve the areas identified as gaps during the evaluation process.
Known primarily as a fishing village, Castara offers much more to visitors keen to enjoy an authentic Tobago experience.
A dirt oven provides villagers and visitors with baked delights such as breads and pastries on specific days.
The Castara waterfall is another attraction for adventure seekers. Their fisherman fete is also an event not to be missed.
Every Thursday, there is a bonfire on Castara beach with fish broth, dirt-oven bread and local sweets on sale.
The pulling of seine on the shoreline is one of the activities that brings villagers together.
Visitors can find accommodation at local hotels and other establishments.
Brian Taylor, president of the Castara Tourism Development Association, said it was a great achievement for Castara to be part of the programme. He added, "We as a community have worked very hard to develop our community so it is second to none. We are all grateful for the opportunity to be chosen. This will help us to go forward to propel not only Castara but Tobago."
What makes Castara so special?
Taylor explained, "We have our way of life. Castara is one of the only villages where you can experience a real village life. Not only people from foreign will tell you that, people from
Tobago will tell you that you come Castara and you feel the stress just going away.
"We would have maintained a lot of our heritage – dirt oven, roast fish on the beach, roast breadfruit, pulling seine.
"You have the chance as a visitor to experience the way how people live, by partaking in it.
"We have people coming back for the past 15-20 years. That shows that the model that we created, there is nothing like that anywhere else."
However, Taylor believes there is still work to be done to improve the tourism product.
"We would love to see our reefs protected better, education programmes for fishermen, infrastructure in terms of linkage roads."
Taylor praised the work of association directors Natasha Legall-Roberts, Chris Runciman, Yvonne Runciman, Sharon Taylor and Shemika Clarke.
Minister of Tourism Randall Mitchell said, “Castara has clearly demonstrated, through this achievement, its great potential to become an outstanding example of a first-rate rural tourism destination. This recognition will undoubtedly boost the ministry’s community-based tourism thrust.
"We are extremely proud of all the communities that have participated in the UN World Tourism Organization Best Tourism Villages initiative since its inception in 2021 and encourage other tourism-based communities to come on board."
The ministry said it views community participation in this initiative as pivotal to the development and expansion of the community-based tourism niche. The ministry said it remains committed to assisting communities across Trinidad and Tobago to understand the value of tourism to their socio-cultural, environmental and economic well-being and will continue to provide the support necessary to achieve success in this area.