With the drive to reintroduce cruise ship passengers to St. Lucia post-COVID, many new concepts have emerged, the first being how to avoid contact with the roadside vendors. The idea is to shuttle visitors by bus or by sea craft, straight to the main sites in Soufriere, the Sulphur Springs and the Botanical Gardens at George V Park and some selective dining facilities, to avoid contact with the local people.
These sites are important because they are revenue sources for the Government. The monies collected at the waterfront as ‘landing taxes’ and the control of funds from the Sulphur Springs establishment will become their main financial objective.
In that package, some selective transport owners will profit, as well as some selective boat owners and site owners, as they will all eat part of the Tourism pie, but to get to them, there will be no stops as was done previously, such as stopping in the village of Anse la Raye, or the Marigot Hilltop or stopping by the wayside vendors on the Roseau roadside trying to ply their trade after more than a year without seeing a tourist. All that will be a thing of the past now, so their sales and opportunity to earn via the Tourist trade will be no more because of the new norm.
The main reason for bypassing the locals is based on not having the people mingle to avoid COVID possibilities from direct contact because not all vendors have taken the jabs.
For all the people who got hooked in the past on the Touristic dream, those who have invested all that they have, trying their best to seek-out a living because of limited job opportunities, all that effort can go down the drain and it’s going to be back to hard times and COVID will be the excuse coming from the Tourism authorities.
It is always the small man that feels the pinch, all the people who invested in transportation to get a piece of the Touristic Pie will soon have to sell out. Meanwhile, the Government makes their money through port taxes with the entry of every cruise ship that makes a call at our ports, through site control and a few selected tour agents and service providers will be the only ones to profit.
The landscape is changing, the tourist dollar will be only for a selective few and the majority of people have to continue to “scrunt”. What a way to go!
There is a lot going on behind the scenes and the truth is not told to the people, everything is secretive and hush-hush, but information is leaking out and people are becoming more and more aware of the plans afoot.
We keep trying to make ends meet, but the system thinks only of itself and a lot of locals will be affected, starting with independent private taxi drivers. All guests will be guided to their respective buses or boats, which also mean that small and private boat owners will also feel the pinch.
There are doubts about the vendors in the City or the Morne Layby. The hustlers on the beach and freelancers will also be affected, so for the next few months we will see ‘tourists’, but the big question is: Who will benefit? And the answer will naturally be “because of COVID concerns things had to change…”
So, folks, looking ahead with the benefit of my over four decades in the industry, all I can say to my fellow St. Lucians is “Brace yourself” and “Tie your waist”. Why? Because change is more and more becoming the new norm and the changes are taking place in the tourism industry and the economy and the whole country right in front of our eyes – and from what I see in my vision, that is not a nice sight down the road.