When one visits another country, it is usually to sample the culture of the place. But in our region we tend to relate to our visitors by pleasing them as if they were back-home.
While at a resort recently, I noticed that the breakfast menu was completely alien, as in the usual way where the visitors came from. It was Pancakes with Maple Syrup, with cubes of sugar and milk, eggs or sausages, with imported orange juice, coffee and tea.
I would have thought that by now local cow or goat milk, or a glass of Seamoss would also help boost the economy, adding a slice of bread laced with molasses from the sugarcane, with a piece of sweet or hot pepper, or a slice of cassava or fried breadfruit, and a freshly-made glass of local juice or our famously known coco tea, or locally-ground coffee.
I would have thought that a Bake and Saltfish or two fried Balawoo would be ideal, even a Sea egg special or Lambi with vinegar.
Maybe for lunch, some curried goat, or local pot fish, crayfish with breadfruit or green figs would be good to sample.
But for the usual reasons we are afraid to venture into uncharted waters, by not ‘imposing’ our culture and customs on our guests.
You would have thought that after staying two weeks on island, that part of their entertainment would be to see a play written by one of the world’s greatest playwrights and Literature giants our own Derek Walcott, or a play from his brother Roddy could be the highlight of their visit.
But it is usually the usual floor shows of what they are accustomed to, while our local musicians try to put in sequence all that they know that is usual to them with a little ‘Hot-Hot-Hot’ in between.
We sell little of ourselves. If the guest wanted to purchase a local designers outfit, there are usually none to be found, and art pieces are by chance mingled with the many imported exhibits you find in the market place.
Why are we afraid to offer a part of ourselves, why have we become so conservative, so non-tropical? Is calypso and compa, mingled with a little zouk, or Dennery Segment music so bad for the visitors’ tender eardrums? What about other people’s way of life that is better than our own? Would it not be nice for a visitor to see a cock-fight in the village so they can return home and talk about that experience?
To expand this economy, we have to sell of ourselves, everybody should have something that is home-grown to sell: our coconut water, bananas and mangoes are surely tasty enough to satisfy a pallet; and trying out Zanjee, or local land crabs or crayfish from the rivers, all could be considered as delicacies, exotic cuisine. (Even a little bit of home grown weed, I may add…)
Tourism should be about new experiences, trying-out something different, enjoying a Country & Western dance intermingled with locals… how come when we go over to their country we visit all their parks and zoos and go to Disney World and the likes, but when it comes to our own we reserve it only for locals? Blimey!
Nothing wrong in sampling a little pork stew, or on the grill BBQ, or eating some black pudding or souse. We have to change with the times, bring fresh ideas to the table, make a vacation an experience, and let it be known that is how it is done in St. Lucia. Survival should not be for a selective few, it should not be dictated to us by expats. No offence, but all of us should have a stake in adding to our touristic product.
We need to take our visitors out, it should not be only about the volcano or at our beaches or ziplining through the forest, as there is more to us than meets the eye, so they have to enjoy a boat ride Lucian-style.
My only concern is that we have to ensure, as a country, that it is safe to indulge and participate and no one is in danger. I know that is a big task, but how else will we get our visitors to trust us? We should not only be simply beautiful, but also a safe destination to visit, so the task ahead is more than a walk in the park.