The 2022/2023 tourism season has been welcomed with much optimism by stakeholders, with the Ministry of Tourism projecting that a record number of visitors will arrive by cruise ship – approximately 326,000 this season.
Tourism is a major economic driver in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). When one considers the core industry plus all the sectors that depend on it, the tourism economy accounts for approximately 30 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 40 per cent of jobs (prior to the pandemic and the eruption of La Soufriere) in SVG. Tourism also makes a huge contribution to the country’s foreign exchange earnings; it truly is “everybody’s business”.
We can therefore understand the excitement among stakeholders as this is the first full-fledged tourism season since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. Taxi operators, tour guides and craft producers are among those who were worst affected over the past two seasons and are therefore desperate for things to go well this season.
Last week, during a press conference hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, officials reported that 265 taxi drivers had already been licensed for the 2022-2023 season and urged others to do what was required in order to receive the SVG Tourism Authority seal of approval.
Our sites seem to be in fair condition, even the Owia Salt Pond recreation site which took a beating last year from the erupting La Soufriere. The site has been refurbished and was re-opened after it had been closed in the wake of the eruption of La Soufriere.
The visitors have begun arriving, the stakeholders and the sites are ready.
Why then are the taxi drivers and tour guides wondering if this season has taken those responsible for road repairs by surprise? (see stories on page 8).
The access roads to many of the in-demand sites are in a deplorable state. In order to get visitors to Fort Charlotte, Dark View Falls, the Layou Petroglyph Park
and the Vermont Nature Trail, tour operators/taxi drivers must take their guests over an uncomfortable obstacle course, while risking damage to their vehicles.
Some of these roads have been in a poor state for quite some time. So, while the heavy rainfall we have been experiencing over the past few months may have contributed to their deterioration and delays in any planned repairs, the rain cannot take all the blame.
Tourism is everybody’s business; everybody includes the agency responsible for road repairs. This industry will only be as strong as the weakest link.
After a dismal two years, we must maximize the opportunities presented to us by the record number of visitors booked to arrive here.
In order to maximize the opportunities, we must fix the roads.