THE numbers for the local tourism industry’s performance are finally in and tourism officials are already patting themselves on the shoulder for a job well done. Save for the Caribbean market, all other market segments realized either impressive increases or substantial strides.
That Saint Lucia competes on a global scale to attract people from all walks of life to its shores suggests that the island can either succeed or fail at that attempt. While there have been successful annual performances in the local tourism industry in the past, last year is being touted as the best on many fronts.
Quite deservingly, all players in the vital tourism plant deserve some measure of praise for collectively ensuring that despite the many challenges faced in the sector last year, positive achievements were realized. A great deal of achievement must be felt by the industry’s stakeholders — from the single mother who has to depend on others to raise her children while she is away at work in the hotel’s housekeeping department to the top marketing executive selling the island’s positive image overseas. Kudos!
At the same time, there are many forces working against the industry itself. Negative publicity in the media, crime, high cost of goods and services, lack of qualified human resource capacity in certain fields related to the industry and the virtual lack of standards in some areas are among the factors that can either make or break the sector’s current progress.
Of late, visitor harassment has been a case that officials have been monitoring closely to find some common ground as to how to deal with it. Recently, Director of Tourism Louis Lewis, explained to the media that a joint collaboration between the Saint Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association and the Saint Lucia Tourist Board is expected to realize a public awareness campaign to address the change in attitude needed in both understanding what tourism means and how it benefits us. That campaign is also expected to address how fragile the industry is.
For many, the record-setting year tourism experienced in 2014 might not mean much, especially the unemployed who cannot find work or the employed still working on making ends meet. All these numbers mean nothing if they don’t translate to bettering one’s personal station in life.
However, the broader picture needs to be acknowledged here: that close to 30,000 local jobs are indirectly created and supported by the local tourism industry. Can you imagine what the current unemployment figure would have been had it not been for such a crucial industry? We certainly need to appreciate, capitalize and build on the positive tourism numbers we have posted thus far.