Questions Minister’s Statements.
THE current state of the island’s tourism industry as presented by Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilus one week ago is being disputed by Senator Dominic Fedee, the “shadow” Minister of that sector for the United Workers Party.
Theophilus announced that within the last four years the tourism sector experienced exceptional growth that resulted in substantial gains in virtually all the categories within the sector.
However Fedee yesterday claimed that the Minister’s statement painted a scenario of the sector did not exist. He pointed to a press release from the Minister last week which stated that “tourism officials have strongly denounced what they termed false and misleading pronouncements on the industry’s overall performance.”
Said Fedee: “The facts are that the industry had a moderate growth rate in 2015, and this year January when compared to 2015 we saw a negative two percent growth. The press release sort of cherry picked where the industry had peak performances but it failed to give the big picture of the industry. This is misleading and disappointing,” Fedee said.
The press release from Theophilus stated that between 2012 and 2015 the island recorded a 12 percent increase in arrivals. He also noted that last year Saint Lucia recorded a two percent increase in stay-over arrivals.
Said Theophilus: “The Island recorded increases in stay-over arrivals every month during the first two quarters of 2015 with the best performances being recorded in January and May. The months from January to April and June and October of 2015 generated the highest numbers ever recorded for these specific months, while the figures for March were the highest number of visitors ever recorded in any one month period.”
But Fedee is not thrilled by the figures given by the Minister, claiming that while other destinations in the Caribbean were recording double digits growth in tourist arrivals Saint Lucia could only muster two percent.
“This tells us very clearly that the destination, Saint Lucia, is under performing and is of much concern to us,” Fedee said.
He added that this year had started badly where the tourism sector is concerned with a two percent decline in arrivals for the winter.
“If it starts badly then it does not paint a very good picture for the rest of the year. It is likely that this trend will continue. Immediate policy decisions will have to be taken so that we can really cushion this downward spiral of the industry. The industry has been underperforming since June of last year. The Caribbean had a significant year yet Saint Lucia remains at the bottom of the pack,” Fedee said.
He called on the Tourism Board to put measures in place to revitalize itself and not depend on the undertaking of a public relations exercise as this will not change the reality of the industry.