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Making Waves in Tourism

By: Brian Riback
December 01, 2020

Quincia Gumbs-Marie is a 2016 HTMRyerson alumna who currently serves as the Parliamentary Secretary for Economic Development and Tourism for the Caribbean island of Anguilla.

Like so many students, Gumbs-Marie's career ambitions were challenged throughout her time in university. Originally planning to work in hotels and resorts back at home, she realized that her true passion was for tourism development after taking courses and getting to know professors working out of the Institute. She recalls Dr. Rachel Dodds teaching her about “the urgency of now” in ensuring that the product, place, and people of tourism as well as the supporting structures are not exploited.

Gumbs-Marie credits her experience in HTMRyerson for changing the trajectory of her career. “All of the things I learnt [at Ryerson] were very impactful not just in an academic way, but in a personal way…it really changed my outlook”, she states about her “top-tier” experience studying at Ryerson and working with the faculty members.

Her career took another unexpected turn late last year when she diverted from her plans of getting her Master’s degree in International Business and Development to running in Anguilla's election. She was elected to office in the summer of 2020. “I felt like it was the patriotic things to do”, Gumbs-Marie explains on her decision to get into politics. A long-time activist for issues such as women’s rights, she had always had a passion for public policy and wanted to create a better world for her nieces, nephews, and future children.

A picturesque image of the Anguillian beach

The village of Sandy Ground, Anguilla's main port. 

Entering office during the COVID-19 pandemic was the most challenging part of the process for her, especially with a portfolio consisting of tourism and economic development. Anguilla is one of the few countries declared COVID-free, however this was largely in part due to travel restrictions keeping out imported cases of the virus. When it came to reopening the country to international travel, Gumbs-Marie had a difficult task to manage, ensuring that people would feel safe visiting the island while also having an authentic experience that would make the trip worthwhile. Anguilla differs from many surrounding markets in that it does not follow the all-inclusive resort model, which can bounce back much quicker due to its isolated nature of tourist activity. Instead, Anguilla’s visitors are adventurous and prefer to explore the island and its offerings.

Under the guidance of medical officers, she helped develop a uniquely adapted reopening strategy that would work for Anguilla’s needs. While some open countries have learned to coexist with the virus and allow tourists to roam free, this was never an option for Anguilla with its less extensive medical resources in comparison. Gumbs-Marie came up with the next best thing. She created a vacation bubble concept; a predetermined area in which tourists can roam around freely. The bubble contains local restaurants, shops, and other attractions that will manage mask-usage, sanitation, and physical distancing. This solution provides a comparable experience to moving around the island without the same health and safety risk to the broader community. “It took a lot of partnership and training” says Gumbs-Marie of the preparation process to welcome travellers in time for the festive season.

COVID aside, Quincia Gumbs-Marie and her colleagues in the Anguilla Progressive Movement administration have numerous other agenda items that they plan to accomplish in both the short and long terms. These include expanding Anguilla’s international airport to accept more long-haul flights and diversifying products to develop supportive industries for tourism. They also plan to do legislative work in support of tourism workers who are disproportionately affected by shocks to Anguilla’s economy such as hurricanes. “The product speaks for itself…Anguilla has a natural charm to it, it’s just ensuring that all of the support structures necessary to better empower and improve our tourism product are there”.

Quincia Gumbs-Marie represents the future for tourism in Anguilla, but her progressive ideals and passion for sustainable tourism development were nurtured throughout her time in Canada, which she has adapted for her smaller island home. While relatively fresh in her political career, she is serious about making an impact to Anguilla’s tourism industry and is already well on her way to doing so.