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Contact: Richmond Felix

June 8, 1998 - The financing agreement for a community based nature heritage tourism project was signed Friday. The project is expected to not only have an economic sectoral focus on tourism but also significant linkages and benefits to the rural economy.

The project is being financed out of the resources of St. Lucia’s 1994 STABEX transfer. In the past, the STABEX facility was used primarily to support the agricultural sector. However, the need to strategically deploy some of those resources into other sectors of the economy has been identified.

Framework agreements signed between the Government of St. Lucia and the European Commission, make specific provision for resources along certain program lines; including the banana industry, agricultural diversification and broader economic diversification.

The signing of the agreement for the community based nature heritage tourism project, marks the first time that a direct transfer has been made to a key economic sector outside agriculture.

Head of the European Commission delegation in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean George Gwyer says, "We hope that the project would do something to improve the overall balance and tendencies towards a broader based distribution of those benefits to include people in rural communities, where nature heritage tourism suites are located."

It was approximately six months ago that work began on exploring ways in which the tourism sector could be supported to deliver a sustainable and balanced people centered development, which would also safe guard the environment, promotes equitable economic development and help to improve the quality of life for St. Lucians.

The programme covers a wide range of activities to be implemented over a three year period including public awareness and consciousness, institutional strengthening, human resource development, product development, niche marketing and policy development and advocacy. The programme will be implementing by a management unit based in Castries, combining the resources of the public, private and non-governmental organizations.

The community based nature-heritage tourism project is in keeping with government’s policy to ensure that the benefits of tourism are shared all citizens. According to Minister for Tourism, the Hon. Philip J. Pierre, "Tourism is an export based industry which deals primarily with people and can impact negatively on natural and cultural resources of the local population if not properly controlled." In this regard, an implementation unit, operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism will manage the project.

Minister Pierre indicated, "Part of the mandate of this project is the provision of technical expertise, training and funding to those involved in the small business sector." He added, "Our tourism industry will benefit from clearer policy direction on the role of the community based natural heritage sector."

This new project will seek to examine policies relating to the present incentives regime and the barriers that hamper the entry of small operators into the tourism industry, while ensuring a system of internationally accepted standards that guarantees the safety and quality of the service and the product

The overall objectives are: to develop St. Lucia’s nature heritage tourism product, enrich the experience of visitors through the provision of unique natural and cultural activities and to diversify and decentralize the tourism product so that rural communities may be integrated within the industry.

The project proposal was submitted by the ministry of tourism and the St. Lucia tourist board, in 1997, for funding consideration under STABEX 1994. A study will soon be launched to look into the development of a multi-use eco-tourism site for the national trust at Anse-La-Libety.

 

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