St. Vincent and the Grenadines is preparing for the commencement of the cruise tourism season. The questions that lingers on the minds of most Vincentians, is the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government serious about the development of tourism?
We understand the challenges of the COVID- 19 pandemic to the tourism industry. The pandemic is over. What has the government done to attract more visitors to St. Vincent and the Grenadines? While the Minister of Tourism boasts about 326,000 cruise passengers are expected to arrive this season, St. Kitts/Nevis will be welcoming over 900,000 cruise passengers.
The Minister of Tourism believes he can jump in a taxi; drives around Kingstown for a photo op and that will assist in promoting tourism. How naïve is he? The ULP government is unable to fully develop our full tourism potential. It is obvious by its ineffective marketing, inadequate infrastructure, the lack of planning, and the absence of specialized personnel in the industry. For instance, why hasn’t the government develop the site where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed? Almost every day on talk radio, taxi operators and other stakeholders in the tourism industry complain about the condition of the roads that lead to tourism sites, but they are not being repaired. Why are the roads not being fixed?
In developing the tourism product increased occupancy is critical. The ULP government has embarked on hotel development. However, it would appear that the investors that the ULP government has attracted are questionable. We have seen what had happen to Dave Ames and the Buccuma Hotel Project. He was eventually jailed for twelve (12) years for operating a Ponzi scheme. The Black Sand Resort is stalled; even though Vincentians were given a completion date recently, not a word is being uttered by the Minister of Tourism on the Mt. Wynne Hotel Project which was to have begun this year and unconfirmed reports are that all the workers have been laid off at Royal Mill, another hotel project. The ULP’s complacency and neglect of tourism has negatively affected St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Way Forward
The New Democratic Party (NDP) is cognizant of the importance of tourism to the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and will place emphasis on the development of the tourism sector, with the main objectives being: to increase growth in tourism’s contribution to GDP, create employment opportunities at all levels throughout the society, establish linkages with other economic sectors, and to generate foreign exchange.
The NDP will work with the private sector and all relevant stakeholders in developing a Cruise Tourism Policy. Not only will this policy focus on attracting increased numbers, but it will also encourage a fair distribution between all appropriate ports throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The identification and development of appropriate strategies will be critical to achieving the desirable levels of visitor expenditure. The development of sourcing of products and supplies for cruise ships, and encouraging the employment of Vincentian nationals on board cruise ships, will be other important thrusts in the NDP’s Cruise Tourism Development Policy.
The yachting industry is in a state of growth internationally. With an increasing number of persons retiring early, and higher average incomes, there is an increasing amount of leisure time. However, it would appear that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not positioned to take advantage of this lucrative sector. We want to attract more yacht cruising visitors and encourage them to stay longer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ waters. We will revisit fees for yachties including encouraging high new worth cruising yachties by offering temporary residence that they will make St. Vincent and the Grenadines their home base in the Caribbean.
Also, the development of marinas and other yachting facilities in suitable locations throughout the country, such as in Bequia, the Southern Grenadines and Villa, will also receive attention.
We will enhance existing tourism sites and utilize our historical heritage and natural beauty and develop new ones throughout the country. We will also develop cable cars service in North Leeward and eco-tourism trails in various areas. Local craft makers will be encouraged and assisted to produce and sell indigenous crafts. We will work vigorously to develop this sector and transform St. Vincent and the Grenadines into a leading destination in the Caribbean. And, we will place emphasis on local festivals and cultural events, such as carnival, music festivals, Gospel Fest and Nine Mornings.
We will ensure better promotion by targeting markets in Europe, Canada, United States of America, and the Caribbean. We will also develop, in collaboration with airlines, hoteliers, travel agents and other service providers, special tour packages for Caribbean tourists to boost tourism, especially in the off-season.
Further, we will focus on promoting high-end tourism and promote St. Vincent and the Grenadines to high-end stay over visitors and promote investment in small to mid-size luxury hotels and villas to attract visitors seeking a special experience and unique destination.
Towards this end, we will establish and operate a first-class tourism training institute that will improve the delivery of high-quality service in the tourism industry; we will ensure security in our harbours and bays through regular coastguard patrols and police foot patrols in resort areas and beaches; we will give special attention to preventing harassment and criminal activities in general, against visitors, through, but not exclusively, prompt prosecution of offences against visitors; we will establish a special police unit tasked with investigating crimes against yacht visitors and other tourists; we will seek to reduce the travel cost and to improve the reliability and frequency of air service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The NDP will revitalize tourism. We will work vigorously to develop the sector and transform St. Vincent and the Grenadines into a leading tourism destination in the Caribbean.