A SALUTE to Our Hotel Workers
Hello once again, St. Lucia, Today is the last Monday of November and we are
drawing closer to the festive season.
In the last month, Saint Lucia’s Tourism Industry received two prestigious
awards. First, there was the Five Star Diamond Award for Excellence from the
American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. This was followed by the Crystal Palm
Award for Excellence to the Government and people of Saint Lucia. The thirty-six
member countries of the Caribbean Hotel Association voted Saint Lucia as the
Caribbean Government with the most favourable policies and attitudes to
investment in tourism.
None of these awards would have been possible without our hotel owners, hotel
administrators and most importantly, our hotel workers.
Of course, this is not the first time that St. Lucia has received an award. A
year hardly goes by without St. Lucia being favourably mentioned or some St.
Lucian hotel being voted “The Best” in one category or other. Sandals continue
to lead the way among the large hotels, but our small hotels are also holding
their own, whether it is Bay Gardens in the north or Anse Chastanet and Ladera
on the west coast. Our hotels and their employees continue to win awards for
So, in recognition of these successes I have decided to dedicate today’s
Conversation to our hotel workers. Without them, our hotel industry would not be
where it is today. They deserve our recognition for managing our industry with
sensitivity, warmth and yes, pride and dignity.
Some in our midst are contemptuous of our hotel workers, declaring their jobs as
servile and demeaning. They even say that this Government wishes to create a
nation of waiters.
Ironically, many waiters earn higher incomes than their critics. Some of whom
incidentally, live off, directly or indirectly, on the income created by the
OTHER PILLARS OF INDUSTRY:
As I speak of our hotel workers, I am also thinking of the other pillars of our
tourism industry: the taxi drivers, the vendors, the workers at the duty free
shops, the water sport and sport fishing staff, restaurant staff, airline staff,
airport personnel, port security guards, and Customs and Immigration, officials.
They too are important, but our hotel workers, more than any other determine
whether the visitors return, or whether they move on to another destination.
Unquestionably, we continue to be a favourite tourism destination. This is
borne out by our increased arrivals by sea and air with each passing year. Our
cruise tourism figures continue to grow, as do our arrivals by air. American
Airlines is back with us. British Midlands undertakes its inaugural flight in
December. Existing airlines are putting on more flights and adding routes.
Some local tour operators are reporting over 100% increase in business so far
for this season.
New hotels are springing up and existing ones are expanding. The Sandals Group
as already announced, the first of the Beaches chain in Saint Lucia. Discovery
at Marigot Bay is under construction and will bring new life to Marigot. The
Harbour at Rodney Bay is now finally cleared for construction and will add a new
dimension to Rodney Bay. Calabash at Marisule, is also nearing completion. Soon,
Plantation Beach on the Cas-En-Bas beach will open its doors for business.
But that is not all. Existing hotels that are expanding include Bay Gardens,
which also operates Bay Gardens Inn. Coco Creole, is working night and day to
complete its almost 200 additional rooms. The former Rainbow Hotel, has
re-entered the market as “The Village”. Renovations are to start at the Rex St.
Lucian sometime next year. The former Club Med in Vieux Fort re-opens in mid
January under its new name “Coconut Bay”. Some three hundred Saint Lucians will
be employed there. Other good news about that property will soon follow.
In effect, some 700 additional rooms will be in the market in the next six
months. All of that would not have been possible without investors. Every
investment is a tangible expression of confidence in our industry and our
But none of these successes I have spoken of, be they through awards or
accolades, would have been possible without the contribution of the workers at
our hotels. They are truly our frontline ambassadors in this industry.
MORE IMPORTANT THAN POLITICIANS:
I have said before that as far as I am concerned, the hotel workers of this
country are more important than politicians because they can make or break the
industry. Their handling of visitors will determine if they convey favourable
impressions of our island, people and the product we offer. Time and time again,
visitors tell me that what impresses them the most about our St. Lucia is our
people – their warmth, generosity and sensitivity.
I remember, as you do, the criticisms I have faced – and still do – for taking
steps to provide jobs for hotel workers or to ensure that hotel workers keep
their jobs in the face of difficulties facing their employers. In this regard, I
remember the workers of the Rex chain, whose jobs we successfully secured by
taking steps to assist the employers to keep their doors open. And of course,
there are the continuing efforts to paint as a crime the Government’s decision
to ensure that six hundred St. Lucians are working at Sandals Grande, now the
flagship of the chain in St. Lucia. I am proud of Sandals Grande. Whatever St.
Lucia may have lost, the investment will be repaid handsomely, in a matter of
As I have said before, my overriding interest is to provide jobs and put food on
the table for our hotel and tourism employees. The Government that I lead will
always put jobs first.
Our hotel workers apart, we must ensure that, as a nation we continue to do what
we have to do to build and improve on our tourism product. The competition is
fierce. I was reminded by the Tourism Minister the other day, that some
countries in the Middle East are using their “oil money” to build islands – yes,
to build islands – in order to attract visitors who want the island experience
that we offer.
It is for this reason that we must take every opportunity to promote our tourism
industry by ensuring that each worker in every establishment in the hospitality
industry sees himself or herself as a tourism ambassador. The nature of the
product may change, but service remains the name of the game.
Take the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers – the ARC Race, as we know it. After more
than a dozen years of being the final destination for this grueling but
challenging and adventurous worldwide event that now attracts over 200 yachts
and crew, we have to ensure that we keep the race and that it grows from
strength to strength. Other countries want the ARC, and badly.
We must acknowledge the efforts of the Rodney Bay Marina, especially Cuthbert
Didier, in ensuring that the “yachties” are welcomed, properly accommodated and
given the best time they can have, each time around. But there’s more that we
Families fly to St. Lucia to meet crew members who have braved the seas. They
live on their boats, but they spend to eat and to stay with us. We must treat
them just as we do the cruise visitors or the hotel guests. They too, are
important to the industry.
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE:
Yet, even while we acknowledge and salute the contribution of our hotel
employees, their biggest challenge is still yet to come. They will undoubtedly
be challenged to ensure they continue to deliver the award-winning service they
have made St. Lucia famous for. But their biggest challenge will come with the
Cricket World Cup in 2007, when they have to host the thousands of cricket fans
over 51 days.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to shine at our best, with the
eyes of eight billion cricket spectators around the world fixed on us.
The Government has offered incentives aimed at ensuring we provide additional
rooms in time for Cricket World Cup.
New hotels are under way, which will mean more work for thousands of St. Lucians
between now and the Cricket World Cup. All will have an opportunity to be the
best hosts we can for the best Cricket World Cup ever. Additional hotels and
Guest Houses will go up, but there will also be opportunities for ordinary
household families to engage in provision of Bed & Breakfast accommodation,
providing it is within the standard required and expected.
We have to go for it. I know we can. From what we have seen these past seven
years, I know we can excel. We have proven it more than once before and we can
continue to do it between now and Cricket World Cup, 2007. All we have to do is
to continue to do what we are doing – and do it even better.
So, I close as I began, with praise for our hotel workers and their allies in
the tourism and hospitality industry. Without them we could not have been here;
and without them, we will not be able to get to where we are heading. Respect
due to our hotel workers.
Till next Monday, be of good cheer and may our Lord protect you.