An orientation program on the Isle of Man has sharpened the perceptions of Dawn Repetto about better ways to promote tourism for Tristan da Cunha. As Tourism Coordinator for Tristan, she has been participating in an exchange program supported by the Manx government. Last week she discussed the values tourists could take away from visits to her own island.
She and her family have spent three months on Mann and they are nearing the time when they will be returning to Tristan. A reporter for a local news service on Mann, Dave Kneale, interviewed her about her work on Tristan, her program on Mann at the Department of Economic Development and the Manx National Heritage, and her hopes for promoting tourism.
She explained the self-sufficiency of the Tristan Islanders. Many are employed in the lobster fishing company or by the government, but they are not done work at the end of the day. They grow much of their own food: they raise cattle, cultivate potatoes, and harvest fish from the surrounding sea. Repetto pointed out to the Manx reporter, “we have no restaurants and bakeries so island women do all of their own cooking and baking.”
She continued by discussing the social climate on Tristan. The 200 years of isolation—the islanders take pride in being “the world’s most remote inhabited island”—have fostered some unique social and economic traditions. All the land is owned communally and the feelings of community are highly cherished. People help one another and though they are very busy, they also have a happy lifestyle, she maintained.
She went on to say that a person who had no money would not starve on the island. “We are a peaceful community with no crime and it is a great place to bring up children,” she said.
Tourists have a hard time arranging visits to Tristan. The island has no hotels and no restaurants, and relatively few ships travel from Cape Town to Tristan, so it can be hard to book passage. In case a medical emergency arises, it may take priority and preempt a room on a departing ship, forcing visitors to stay on the island until the next ship with available space comes by.
Despite those problems, the island has a steady stream of travelers who do visit—and Ms. Repetto wants to increase their numbers. There is a constant backlog of people who wish to visit the island and there are not enough ships with facilities to bring them. Although the island has no hotels, it can provide self-catering accommodations and homestays in private homes.
She included in her comments to the reporter some kind words about her hosts on the Isle of Man. She told him that their island is lovely and that the Manx people are fortunate to have both an island lifestyle and the advantages of being close to Ireland and the UK. Their island is similar to her own, though of course it is much bigger.
She concluded by saying, “People have been so kind and friendly since we arrived—I hadn’t realised that this sort of kindness still existed in today’s world.” The Tristan website also has a recent news story about the Repetto family on Mann, which includes numerous photos.