Our Readers' Opinions
May 12, 2017
Is tourism SVG’s main income earner?

The answer to the question as to which sector currently contributes to the GDP in St Vincent and the Grenadines seems obvious for many. After the decline of our banana exports and the inability to sufficiently capitalize on other agricultural exports, St Vincent has turned to tourism to fill a necessary gap.

Tourism is now of such importance to our island state that we have devoted resources to a Ministry of Tourism and a Tourism Authority, generally tasked with increasing arrivals and stay overs.

It is thus unfortunate that both of the bodies tasked with securing the sustainability of this sector have fallen short, glaringly so, in recent times, to capitalize on significant events in our nation’s history and on our nation’s annual calendar.

One does not wish to take away from the work these bodies do, nor the work of the men who head them and it’s for this reason, the benefit of the doubt is being given that the development and implementation of certain plans is much more difficult than it appears from the outside.

During the last two to three months, two important things have happened which have caused many persons to question the necessity of a Ministry of Tourism and the viability of a Tourism Authority, as both bodies seem to have dropped the ball significantly, when it comes to taking initiative.

The region, on a whole, is aware of the role that St Vincent and the Grenadines plays in LIAT and the level of clout that Dr Ralph Gonsalves has therein. One says this to say that we have a voice, and if sustainable ideas are put forward, the management of LIAT is likely to hear our suggestions.

Prior to the opening of the Argyle International Airport (AIA) on March 14, 2017, a question was asked on “what was LIAT doing to commemorate the occasion”. It was suggested that it would be a “nice” gesture if LIAT had promotions available, or perks given to passengers flying in on that day (after all, St Vincent and the Grenadines does A LOT to keep LIAT afloat).

A constant lamentation of LIAT is that it does not make any money and it operates at a deficit, etc. Yet LIAT does little or nothing to improve its image to the travelling public. LIAT is currently a necessary evil to many of the smaller islands.

On April 14, Caribbean Airlines had its first official flight to the AIA and guess which airline had a commemorative package? Caribbean Airlines! Although as a regional airline, Caribbean Airlines sometimes suffer from similar issues as LIAT does, gestures such as these have persons regarding them in a completely different light to LIAT.

This was clearly a missed opportunity which could have (albeit on a short-term basis) improved LIAT’s image, and by improving that image, improve the travelling public’s willingness to use our then sole regional carrier to visit SVG. Our Tourism Authority and Ministry of Tourism cannot continue to not take advantage of these types of opportunities which will ultimately benefit our nation.

Even more recently is the issue of the Bequia festivities, which have grown and developed into a completely different creature over the past three to five years. All of St Vincent and the Grenadines is aware that Bequia Easter is heavily promoted, both as a sailing festival and as a “partying” festival.

Unfortunately, two things were evident. One, the overwhelming presence of Barbados and the NCF

promoting the Cropover festivities (which is a major competitor to Vincy Mas) and two, the noticeable absence of the Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism.

This was another missed opportunity by the Tourism Authority and Ministry, having failed to identify and make use of the opportunity to encourage repeat visitors and promote our largest festival.

The saying “without vision the people will perish” is very apt in this situation. The lack of vision in the persons charged with promoting our culture and festivities (and building our SINGLE income earner) is causing us to perish in our very own front yards; we will now have to play catch up, after we dropped the ball.

Indeed, this piece is highly critical of the Tourism Authority and Ministry of Tourism, as it is very difficult for one to understand how two departments, which employ at least 75 people between them, could have failed so miserably with something so simple.

The moral to this piece is that we need to do better; we cannot do what was done 10 years ago, 10 years later in an ever changing and ever developing world.

One expects the excuses to flow and follow after (as usual), but it simply does not change the position that we need to DO BETTER!

Ade Niles