Tourism sector targeted for short-term capital boost
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), has been experiencing an increase in both airlift and room stock which according to Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves,“is expected to create their own welcome demands for well-trained hospitality staff.”
In the House of Assembly last week, he said, “In our November consultations with the members of the hospitality sector, we heard that recent openings and expansions were already putting pressure on the supply of skilled workers.”
The arrival of Virgin Atlantic, and other airlines during the Covid pandemic, is expected to boost tourist arrivals and there is an urgent need for an increase in hotel room stock if the nation is to enjoy continued increased airlift.
Towards this aim, there will be “at least 875 hotel rooms under active construction on mainland St Vincent, with well over $500 million slated to be spent by private investors and the Government over the next 12 months,” the finance minister said during his 2022 budget address to Parliament on Monday, January 10.
He said this expected development, “is a phenomenal level of post-pandemic, post-volcano investment.”
Although he expects the “hotel construction segment of our economy will be extraordinarily bright in 2022” there were concerns over the progress of a number of projects.
According to Gonsalves, “Not all private sector tourism projects are proceeding satisfactorily at the moment. The progress of the Black Sands Resort at Peters Hope has been, frankly, disappointing. Even accounting for pandemic-related delays, the project should be farther along than it is. We have communicated our concerns to the developers, who in turn have pledged to redouble their efforts to make up for lost time. We intend to hold them to those revised pledges, using all available options at our disposal,”he declared.
Maintenance work at the airports at Argyle, Bequia, and Canouan, is expected to amount to approximately EC$8 million. Work has already commenced at the J.F. Mitchell Airport in Bequia, to which capital allocations of $1.3 million have been made to restore the facility’s functionality.
A CDB-funded EC$1.7 million project is expected to finance rehabilitation work at the Canouan Airport but Gonsalves said the government is proceeding to do some initial work there given that “the current condition of the runway cannot await the studies and designs contemplated by that project.”
Resources have been made for temporary work to ensure that the Canouan airport remains able to “accommodate the increasing numbers of large private jets whose owners are scheduled to enjoy the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the Soho Beach House, or the Sandy Lane Yacht Club, and residences in Canouan.
“It is thus incumbent on the owners of these facilities, especially in the north of Canouan, to reset their strategic focus and involve more fully all relevant partners in the quest to optimise the potential not yet fully realised,”Gonsalves said.
He added that there will be other expenditure on the maintenance or renovation of signage, existing tourism sites, and cultural facilities that collectively will amount to another EC$1.4 million.
There is expected to also be improvements and expansion to the Joseph Chatoyer National Park at Rabacca which Gonsalves said “can become an increasingly-important part of our tourism and cultural offerings.”
He further stated that: “We are preparing for the type of short-term growth that has never before been experienced in our country. While the pandemic stalled some plans, it did not blunt the Government’s drive to expand the sector, or investors’ demonstrable belief that St Vincent and the Grenadines is an up-and-coming destination with incredible potential. Of course, tourism will be forever impacted by COVID, just as travel was forever changed by the terrorist attacks of 9/11.”
The minister noted that current survival in the sector is “dependent on vaccines, variants, and positivity rates. Its future in St Vincent and the Grenadines hinges on the rate of expansion, quality of offerings, the availability of skilled workers, and the correct mix of large and small, local and regional operators.”