Address by the Hon. Minister to the Tourism Forum held on March 8, 2002
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HELD ON MARCH 08, 2002

This forum is for planning and reflection, with a single purpose; that is to safeguard and further the interests of St. Lucia’s most vital tourism industry. That task Ladies and Gentlemen requires a consensus building approach to policy formulation. It requires the collective wisdom of all partners whether beyond or within the sector. It requires the pooling of our human, capital and institutional resources, the adoption of a more unified and purposeful approach to problem solving, the sharing of a single vision for the industry’s future.

Tourism is susceptible to vagaries like the weather, as well as economic conditions in source markets, but unlike any other it is also at the mercy of perceptions of political, social and economic instability. The very essence of tourism relates to the visitor’s experience and we know only too well that the actions or inaction of almost any agency, whether public or private, can affect that experience.

St. Lucia’s potential for tourism development is seemingly boundless but we can no longer afford the missed opportunities for maximizing our growth and development potential. The competition is now more acute than ever and not only for visitor arrivals, but for investment, development, financing and human capital.

The reality therefore is that as a small developing country with limited resources we must understand that the future of tourism in St. Lucia, and indeed the future of our economy and society, will be shaped by our ability to compete effectively.

All, Public Officials, Hoteliers, Groundhandlers, Travel Agents, Taxi Drivers, Vendors, Airlines and Tour Operators, must work together in a Partnership for Competitiveness. In this partnership the role of the public sector includes creating the enabling policy framework for competition, while the private sector produces goods and services competitively.

Tourism more than ever is a business and we must without exception adopt a business like attitude to its management.

Let us therefore use this policy forum as a catalyst for change. Let us begin the process of consultation, policy formulation and implementation, with a view to realising St. Lucia’s true potential in this increasingly competitive world of tourism.

The Ministry of Tourism pledges its unconditional commitment to the process. Indeed, the Government of St. Lucia, is committed to a number of policy initiatives including the following:

• Creation of a Hospitality Industry Investment Fund to mobilize capital from Government, venture capitalists and international donor agencies.

• Provision of fiscal incentives to hotels engaging in plant retrofitting and the installation of appropriate technologies for lowering utility and energy costs.

• Review of the Tourism Fiscal Incentives Act, as well as the Hospitality Services Act to make them more consistent with the needs of a quality, upscale destination.

• Creation of an equity funding facility to provide assistance to the small, locally-owned hotel sector, as well as a marketing strategy to cater to the special needs of that sector.

• Development of a system of standards and codes of practice for all aspects of the tourism industry.

• Review and restructuring of the Tourism Taxi Regime to achieve greater efficiency, discipline, transparency and professionalism.

• Establishment of a New Product Development agency, through a partnership between public, private and community interests, for the purpose of securing financing to invest, develop and manage new tourism products.

• Completion of the Hospitality Training Institute for enhancing human resource development and training within the sector.

• Strengthening of St. Lucia’s position in niche marketing areas, such as the wedding, honeymoon and anniversary market, and targeting new areas such as Sports, Incentives and Convention tourism.

• Seeking to attract an additional 3000 rooms with special emphasis on locating new hotels in Vieux Fort, the South-west, the East and the Northeast regions.

They are the broad policy areas targeted for implementation by the government. Nevertheless, the conclusions of our Policy Forum should add to and crystallize those initiatives. We must all therefore dedicate ourselves to the effective implementation of the programme of policies agreed upon after today.

Ladies and Gentlemen the future is in our hands. We can use today as just another opportunity to point fingers, whine incessantly and lay blame for mistakes past and current problems. Or we can use this Forum as a veritable watershed; an occasion to usher in a new approach to problem solving, a fresh commitment to building a brighter future for our country, our family, ourselves.

May I humbly suggest that we choose the latter.

I thank you.

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