January 16, 2009
No honeymoon for Tourism Authority

There will be no honeymoon period for the newly commissioned Tourism Authority.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has already issued a challenge to the Authority and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Yvonne Armour- Shillingford, who is expected to take up work from February 1.{{more}}

“I expect to see a more focused approach to marketing and a more robust search for tourists,” Dr Gonsalves said last Monday, January 12, as he responded to questions from SEARCHLIGHT about expected fallout to the local economy from the ongoing worldwide economic crisis.

This is after he delivered a message to the nation at Cabinet Room.

Dr Gonsalves said that tourism receipts are expected to go down this season and said that it is important that things are put in place to limit this decline, and even to go against the tide and see growth in the industry amidst the challenges.

He said that government will be observing the next couple months of this tourist season and the beginning of the 2009/2010 season later this year to have a better picture of the challenge that the industry, and by extension, the nation’s economy faces.

“I am looking forward to the challenge. St Vincent and the Grenadines is a wonderful (Tourism) Product,” Armour- Shillingford told SEARCHLIGHT last month, when we ran into her in Kingstown, where she was being introduced to Nine Mornings festivities by Minister of Tourism Glen Beache.

However, speaking recently to SEARCHLIGHT, Beache sought to put in perspective the expectations being placed on the Tourism Authority, suggesting that there will be no overnight marketing success.

“All the articles and the research say that 2009 is going to be a rough year for tourism,” Beache said as he spoke about his hope for 2009.

He said that while he expects great things from the Tourism Authority, “Anybody who understands marketing will understand that it takes about three yeas to really see any benefits from new marketing procedures and new ideas.”

Beache said that he is just hoping that the Tourism Industry is able to keep the jobs “because I know it’s difficult with the times that are upon us right now.”

Saying that in everything being done in the various sectors of the economy, “We have to up our game,” Dr Gonsalves announced that LIAT has agreed to start flying into Canouan, from March 4, which he expects to have a positive impact on the tourism sector.

Twice a day, thrice a week, LIAT will operate a Barbados to Canouan to St Vincent flight. Additionally, the Prime Minister, who is also responsible for Air and Sea Ports, said that he is looking into getting the lights at the Bequia airport fixed to facilitate night flights. (KJ)