April 30, 2009
New Grenada government may be warming to LIAT

The new Grenadian government has a change in attitude towards LIAT and this country’s tourism minister Glen Beache is hopeful that this will culminate with Grenada becoming a shareholder in the airline.{{more}}

“I am optimistic that Grenada will get involved,” he told SEARCHLIGHT as he reflected on the statement made by his Grenadian counterpart, Peter David, following a meeting of the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean (OECS) Council of Tourism Ministers, which was held here on Tuesday, April 21.

At the meeting which was held at the Conference Room of the National Insurance Services (NIS), Minister Beache was critical of the approach taken by some regional governments towards the 53-year-old airline, of which St Vincent and the Grenadines is a shareholder and staunch defender.

Among the leaders that had been most critical of the airline was former Grenadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.

Responding to a question asked by SEARCHLIGHT, David said that his government, which took the reins of power from the previous Dr Keith Mitchell administration in July of 2008, will develop a “new posture” towards LIAT.

“The previous administration took a particular posture…we do not take that posture, we want to be partners with LIAT,” he said.

He said that the new Tillman Thomas led administration has already begun holding talks to this end with LIAT.

“Certainly, we will hope that LIAT will do more to solve whatever problems they have, but then again the only way we could have a say in doing that is to be sitting at the table with our good friends, St Vincent, Antigua and Barbados.”

LIAT, however, wasn’t the main topic for discussion at the one day meeting which Minister Beache openly wished had been held over two days.

Instead the council of ministers was more consumed with thoughts of addressing the global economic crisis which is having a huge effect on the region’s tourism.

It can get worse before it gets better,” declared St Kitts and Nevis’ Tourism Minister Richard Skerrit, as he likened the impact that the crisis will have on the OECS’ tourism industry to a hurricane touching down.

However, the challenges not withstanding, the ministers determined that a unified and focused approach to the development of the tourism product is what is needed to ensure the industry’s survival and success.

When he addressed the opening ceremony of the conference, Randolph Cato, the Director of OECS Economic Affairs, challenged the ministers to move beyond the ordinary and to focus on “how to reshape the tourism industry in the OECS.”

He challenged the individual islands to move beyond their own competitive nature and to work together to put in place policies and take actions that will “alter the negative dynamics” the industry presently faces.

“It must be about how we do the business of tourism in the OECS differently,” he said.

Cato suggested that the condition facing the industry requires unity.

Meanwhile, Beache, during his address to the meeting, contended that while marketing is important, it will take more than marketing to help the region cope with the financial challenges and the competition the destinations face from other worldwide tourism destinations.

Beache lauded the joint marketing initiative, which evolved from a meeting of OECS heads of government a few months ago.

It was decided that a US $3 levy on airline tickets of all visitors to the region will go towards a marketing fund to be administered by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), once the other members of CTO agree.

Beache said that he is excited about this joint marketing strategy and is hopeful that it would be implemented by year’s end.

The leaders also agreed that matters of training and the lifting of standards in keeping with worldwide best practices must be the focus now.

This so that when the economic crisis abates, and tourism developments pick back up steam, the manpower will be in place, and prepared to take their place in the industry -operating at the desired standard and offering visitors to these shores the best value for their money. (KJ)