September 7, 2007

New Tourism Bill gets Opposition nod

The local Hotel Association believes that the tourism industry is poised for growth and expansion with the passage of the Tourism Authority Act in Parliament earlier this week.{{more}}

“With the Authority in place, we feel that there would be growth in the industry,” said Dawn Smith, Executive Director of the Association, following Tuesday’s passing of the Bill.

Smith said that the Association is looking forward to the development of the standards of the industry, and the implementation of an intensive marketing programme when the Tourism Authority gets going.

During his presentation on the Bill, Tourism Minister Glen Beache highlighted the formation of the Tourism Quality Development Committee, which he said would work towards the developing of proper standards in the local industry.

“Standards are very important to how our product is presented…and play a very important role in how many repeat visitors we get,” Beache said.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves also highlighted the importance of setting standards, and said that certification and training are also crucial aspects of the industry that the Tourism Authority will address.

He said that while Tourism has been the most important sector into which this country has diversified, the current infrastructure from which it is run is inadequate to take the tourism product to another level.

He said that the product needs to be lifted high before it reaches its state of maturity.

For his part, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace cautioned the government against using political consideration in the appointment of persons to the strategic positions that would be created by the Tourism Authority.

“Party card shouldn’t determine the type of persons we put in those strategic positions to manage what we say we want managed,” Eustace said, as he stressed the preciousness of the industry in the face of a crippled agricultural industry, namely, the agricultural flagship industry, bananas.

He said that the Tourism Authority needs to be armed with persons who know the industry and understand the direction in which it is going.

Eustace said that if the Tourism Authority does its job correctly as regards policy refinement, standard development and maintenance and the like, then St Vincent and the Grenadines stands to be in sound position.

While he, too, supported the bill, Northern Grenadines representative Dr Godwin Friday expressed his frustration over the slow pace in which the tourism sector has been developing over the last few years, under the present administration.

He pointed particularly to the yachting industry, which he says is in need of urgent attention. (KJ)