The St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association (SLHTA) held its 49th Annual General Meeting this past Friday at the Royal St Lucian Hotel and it was most informative learning how St Lucia has fared over the past year as well as the island’s tourism plans for the future.
St Lucia’s tourism product continues to face challenges as a consequence of the sluggish world economy and reports were received both of properties that had not fared so well as well as those that had surpassed expectation. This was thus a great opportunity to recognize the causes of both failure and success and there were many lessons to be learnt.
Ronald “Boo” Hinkson Speaks Out
Just like last year at the 48th AGM of the St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association iconic St Lucia musician Ronald “Boo” Hinkson made an impassioned plea for attention to be paid to the average young Joe Saint Lucian who was not invested in tourism as he/she saw no direct benefit from it and it will be interesting to see what heed is taken of his words going forward as many at the meeting were in agreement with his observations.
St Lucia Air & Sea Ports General Manager Addresses Assembly
Sean Matthews, General Manager of the Saint Lucia Air & Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA) spoke of the airport re-development plan for Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) and also the challenges of operating the George F.L. Charles Airport which continues to operate at a loss. The plans for HIA are quite substantial and will serve to take Saint Lucia’s tourism to the next level.
This year saw the election of a new board of directors for the St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association with Mrs Karolin Troubetzkoy retaining her position as President while the rest of the new board comprises some familiar faces as well as some new ones.
St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association President Addressing Membership
For the first time this year the SLHTA’s AGM included a trade show and it was interesting to note how some rather diverse offerings impacted Saint Lucia’s tourism business bringing to light the multiplier effect of the tourism dollar. Businesses such as Cartridge World who specialize in refilling ink and toner cartridges and other companies such as Platinum Executive Club, specialists in upmarket VIP transfers particularly geared towards visitors.
Lunch was a sumptuous feast and was followed by the afternoon session.
Saint Lucia Prime Minister Addresses SLHTA Members
Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony was the keynote speaker, addressing members after lunch. Prime Minister Anthony spoke of the challenges facing the industry as well as the responsibility of helping to grow the local economy that falls on the industry’s shoulders due to tourism’s position of being St Lucia’s biggest foreign exchange earner.
Minister of Tourism, Lorne Theophilus, though notably absent, was ably represented by his Permanent Secretary Mr. Donovan Williams who advised the audience that the minister was off island and due to return on United Airlines’ inaugural flight into St Lucia.
Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary Speaks
Mr Williams spoke of the importance of tourism for our economy and pointed to the need for the broadest cross section of the St Lucian people to be invested in the industry. His sentiments echoed those of Boo and he said that he spoke out of a strong human interest view point borne of his social sciences background.
Other presentations were made by the telephone, cable and internet service provider LIME, who spoke of their recently launched 4G internet service and the possibilities that it opened for the ease of doing business in Saint Lucia.
The Saint Lucia Development Bank spoke of the various financing packages that they had, along with the really competitive interest rates on offer. In fact the rates that they quoted just might be the lowest commercial borrowing rates currently available in St Lucia.
SLHTA AGM Audience
The day’s events ended late in the afternoon and I left the St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association AGM quite excited about the possibilities for Saint Lucia’s tourism going forward.
With the plans ahead for St Lucia’s Tourism coupled with recent accolades that the island has received, Saint Lucia is certainly poised for take off as the world pulls out of the current economic doldrums which certainly seem to point to better days ahead once we weather the storms.
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