With regional tourism on the rebound – post the Covid-19 pandemic, industry leaders are moving earnestly into recovery mode as they roll out plans for economic sustainability.
Key stakeholders in the hospitality sector along with government officials and private sector agencies underlined the significance of fostering collaboration and partnerships to move the industry forward, a theme underlined at Thursday’s annual general meeting (AGM) of the St. Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association [SLHTA].
President of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association [CHTA] Nicola Madden-Greig, who delivered the feature address at the SLHTA’s AGM, noted that Covid-19 pandemic has changed the nature of the tourism landscape in the region…
She said it is essential that public/private sector partnership “cement a path forward” for the revival of the industry and its future longevity.
“The Caribbean region has been trying for a long time to achieve a unified approach to tourism. Now, more than ever we need to look forward in term of how we can build together coming out of the pandemic,” said Madden-Greig.
Taking into account the magnitude and scope of work that this recovery process will entail, the CHTA boss added, “in order to unlock the traveling tourist sector’s recovery and ensure its long-term sustainability and growth, this will require serious capital investment from designing and implement to provide the environment for the sector to prosper, create new trends, diversification, new segments and opportunities.”
She declared, “Given the sector’s ambition to build back better, we must consider what the most attractive investment opportunities are for the future to achieve a competitive, sustainable and inclusive sector.”
The CHTA official asked how these issues can be accelerated and “how can the public/private sector prepare for that future and for those investments.”
Madden-Greig said despite the myriad of challenges that befall the sector, there are vivid signs of recovery for the region’s hospitality industry; and that the Caribbean destination is in high demand.
The Jamaican national said there has been positive feedback from the WTCC about the region’s tourism recovery mode, and that there are “opportunities beyond our shores”. She said the WTCC’s forecasting is for “two growth projectionist over the next decade for the industry.”
The base line scenario, she said, forecast an average annual growth GDP of 5.5% double the overall economic growth of 2.4%. “It shows that traveling tourism jobs are forecasted to grow at an average rate of 3.3% annually, creating more than 916,000 new jobs by 2032. That is major for the region,” said Madden- Greig.
However, she noted , “there is a potential for this to be significantly higher …as the Caribbean’s travel and tourism sector could outpace the current road trajectory and achieve an annual rate of 657% to reach 96.6 billion in 2032, up from 50.5billion in 2022”.
Meanwhile, said Madden-Greig, travel and tourism jobs in the region could grow at an average of 4.5% annually, creating 1.34 million jobs by 2032.
Noting the theme of the SLHTA’s AGM: Building Forward Better …Together, Prime Minister Phillip Pierre’s speech focused on a ‘call to action’ to build partnerships within the wider business sector.
“While your emphasis may be on greater collaboration within the private sector, the call could be extended to include stronger linkages between the public and private sectors, as well,” PM Pierre told the gathering.
The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the SLHTA and the St Lucia Manufacturers Association (SMA) was hailed as a significant milestone in the wider thrust for more equity and economic development in the country.
The prime minster recalled that he was influential in advocating for this development, years ago, along with the late Laurie Bernard- a pioneer in the local tourism industry – and that he (Pierre) was quite pleased to see this initiative brought to fruition.
He acknowledged that these are some tangible steps being taken, in this regard, to foster stronger working relationships between the SLHTA and the SMA.
“This is consistent with your call to action and shows that you are prepared to lead the way, while signaling to the rest of the private sector to take heed and follow,” he added.
Noting that there is a significant thrust for agriculture in the region, PM Pierre stated: “There is a thrust that by 2025…25% of the region’s import of food (will) be reduced and that says that we will save US $1.2billion if we can ensure that by 2025…25% of our imports of food are from the region, and will save US$1.2 billion.”
A highlight of the SLHTA’s AGM – featured the Award of Certificates to a group involved in the SLHTA Young Leaders Initiative. A cadre of about ten young persons were selected from destinations across the region to undergo a 12-month internship program, working at different locations in the hostility sector, regionally.
Referring to the involvement of young people in the workings within the hospitality sector, the prime minister said, “The celebration of the achievement of youth in hospitality, as part of your program, has not gone unnoticed. I see a measure of recognition and embarking of our policy approach towards youth engagement and development in this sector.”
SLHTA President Paul Collymore reiterated the need for “building together …to do it better”. He said such a task will entail crossing boundaries “to better communicate our vision to our partner stakeholders…and be willing to listen to stakeholder recommendations on how we must improve our industry and it means that we must put our vices (differences) aside long enough to understand the cries of the marginalized groups who are screaming to be included in the tourism development agenda.”
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Gideon Ferdinand said, the positive outlook and commendable data reported in the industry must redound to the benefit of the average citizen.