December 15, 2006
Minister Beache sees brighter future for tourism

Just show me the money!

This was the essence of Tourism Minister Glenn Beache’s response to Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace’s concern about declining tourist arrivals into St Vincent and the Grenadines.

During his Budget Debate presentation last Tuesday, Eustace said that he was puzzled that arrivals into St Vincent and the Grenadines fell four times in five years with the only increase being in 2004.

Last year’s figure showed that 253,000 persons visited this country compared to 261,000 in 2004.{{more}}

But Minister Beache, during his presentation on Wednesday stated that he was pleased that in 2005 tourist expenditure stood at $282 million which was up from $254 million in 2004 – an increase of $14.5 million.

“If you give me a choice I prefer expenditure to visitor arrivals any day because more money is coming in,” said Beache.

He however tried to give reasons for the annual arrivals numbers. He pointed to the 911 terrorist attacks in the United States and the SARS concerns of 2002. Beache explained, that the filming of the hit movie Pirates of the Caribbean in 2003 meant that even though people wanted to visit St Vincent and the Grenadines, rooms were not available.

Eustace called on Government to invest more money in tourism if it is to be as the government termed “an economic star” in the scheme of things for St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Tourism is so important to our future and the creation of jobs,” Eustace said.

He called on government to make available more than the $6.46 million allocated for tourism promotions.

Minister Beache however stated that although only $6.46 million is directly allocated to tourism that many other ongoing projects are linked to the tourism product.

He said that the building of the National Stadium, the development at Buccament and the coming development at Mt Wynne and Peters Hope are all linked to the development of the tourism product.

And a further $1.4 million will directly impact on tourism through the National Investment Promotions Incorporated (NIPI).

“Indeed NIPI’s National Export Strategy provides an excellent complementary framework to the Ministry of Tourism’s promotion strategy,” Prime Minister Gonsalves had said during the Budget debate.

He said that he was expecting figures for 2006 to show great successes and was also looking forward to 2007.

Minister Beache proudly stated that there would be a cruise ship visit every week until 2008 and that next year his ministry was looking forward to welcome the Royal Caribbean cruise lines to St Vincent and the Grenadines for their inaugural visit, March 2007.