THE Saint Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association (SLHTA) hosted its 55th Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 30th August 2019, pledging its commitment to continue working in the best interest of its growing membership.
This year’s AGM was held at the Finance Administrative Centre, attracting a wide cross section of the umbrella body’s diverse membership. More than 80 companies registered their attendance for the event.
During the open session, SLHTA President Karolin Troubetzkoy told members that given the wide range of challenges threatening the tourism sector, all stakeholders must become more resilient and committed to preserving the benefits the sector offers.
Among the global challenges she cited were environmental disasters, natural catastrophes, the effects of climate change, recession affecting several countries, bilateral trade wars, Brexit, political posturing and unpredictable decisions by a new breed of international leaders.
“We must carefully identify and analyze what is under our control and what we can do as an industry and also as a country to preserve and protect our resources, to promote sustainable practices and, by doing so, allow tourism and our economy to grow even under difficult circumstances,” Troubetzkoy said.
She noted that sustainable tourism practices have become an integral part of the local sector, adding that there are benefits to be derived on political, social, cultural and economic levels. To this end, the SLHTA has partnered with a number of agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Small Grants Project, Global Environment Fund, Soufrière Marine Management Association (SMMA), National Conservation Fund, Caribbean Challenge Initiative, Caribbean Biodiversity Fund, and UNITE Caribbean to assist in building resilience to climate change.
“We (embrace sustainable development) by overseeing the management of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), funding sustainable tourism practices and benchmarking and promoting these practices among members, particularly in ecotourism, cultural and heritage segments,” Troubetzkoy explained.
She added: “We create communication strategies and public awareness initiatives which foster greater understanding about the importance of tourism, opportunities for employment, business investments, and the relationship with the environment and the correlation between the industry and the socioeconomic development of Saint Lucia.”
Troubetzkoy stated that diversifying the tourism product requires brainstorming, citing the recent pull-out of major scheduled carrier, Virgin Atlantic, which has resulted in lost airline seats and tens of thousands of room nights that the tour operating arm of that airline delivered to Saint Lucia annually.
She also thanked British Airways, which recently announced an additional 672 seats weekly to their inventory over July and August next year, acknowledging, however, that filling the void left by Virgin Atlantic requires a detailed impact assessment and strategic visioning and planning on the way forward.
“This, therefore, is also the time to re-examine our connectivity and accessibility from – and our presence in – other markets, such as continental Europe, possibly even some of the South and Latin American countries and – why not – even the Middle East and Asia,” Troubetzkoy told members. “And it is certainly time to once again assess the biggest headache of all: the lack of regional airlift and easy connections with other Caribbean countries.”
This year’s AGM was held under the theme “Tourism – A Catalyst for Sustainable Development of Communities and Commerce”.
Troubetzkoy said the theme chosen was deliberate and strategic as it “highlights the important role of tourism – our economy’s most dynamic driver – and to adjust our operations to be more environmentally sensitive and to be more resilient to natural disasters as well as create more linkages to other local industries, in particular agriculture, arts and crafts, and manufacturing.”
She said the SLHTA will continue to focus on capacity building, marketing, sustainable tourism practices, situation management, membership engagement and development, advocacy, governance and operations.
This year’s guest speaker was Dr. Justin Ram, Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank, whose presentation, entitled “Tourism: A Catalyst For Sustainable Development”, focused on the existential threats facing the global economy and measures needed to be implemented to mitigate these threats over the long-term.
Minister for Tourism, Dominic Fedee, who was also in attendance, highlighted issues facing the tourism sector and explained plans government is undertaking to meet these challenges.