Tourism stakeholders are touting the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the St Lucia Hospitality and Tourism Association [SLHTA] and the St Lucia Manufacturers Association [SMA] as a ‘milestone achievement’ in the annals of the country’s industrial relations developmental prospects.
The historic signing ceremony took place during last week’s SLHTA annual general meeting, where industry personnel and government officials lauded the move as a worthwhile venture to be pursued.
While addressing the gathering, SLHTA President Paul Collymore spoke of the economic benefits that could be derived through such exposure and promotion in a thriving business sector. He also underlined the significance of bridging linkages between local manufacturers and the tourism industry.
“Whilst it is clear that a number of tourism operators currently do business with some manufacturers, it is also clear that this has to be expanded greatly,” said Collymore.
“The MOU signed today commits the SLHTA to hosting a number of trade shows …and conferences over the next three years,” he added. “These trade shows and conferences are designed to achieve the single purpose of getting manufacturers to connect with hotels and tourism service providers.”
Collymore said the SLHTA is committed to holding dialogue with the manufacturers to identify problems “hindering on manufacturers from accessing lead export markets and brain- storming solutions to overcome these challenges.”
In instances where these challenges become too unbearable, said the SLHTA official, “we pledge our lobbying strength to build annexes and achieve mutual, beneficial goals.”
In widening the scope for expansive business enterprise, he noted that there are vast opportunities in store for SMA employees to procure training and development support, and also access to the SLHTA’s Group Medical Plan.
Collymore asserted: “It is the hope of the SLHTA that this partnership with the SMA will grow from strength to strength over the coming years and will unlock greater opportunities as we move forward, better together.”
Vice- President of the SMA Nicholas Barnard stated that this partnership formalizes closer working relationship with the SLHTA “and would lead to a deeper level of collaboration between the organisations.”
He is optimistic that this collaboration will bring about greater exposure for the wider membership and a commitment from stakeholders to interact and communicate on a regular basis.
“These engagements along with joint training sessions will expose synergies that can be mutually exploited,” he added.
With prospects for a brighter economic future through this amalgamation, Barnard declared: “For the hospitality industry to grow, we need our people to buy into its benefits. This requires a sustainable economy that is characterized by productive, and innovative sectors with a collective goal in mind.
“Entrepreneurs need to succeed and thrive by working together and sharing information and help create that conducive environment and encourage the creation of links and networks, thereby promoting opportunities for wider cross-section of our nation,” Barnard said.
He stressed the importance of this collaboration to manufacturers and processes as a means “to be innovative and creative in developing products and service that can enhance the St Lucian experience. We want to be part of a partnership that promotes growth opportunities through to the smallest community.”
Barnard said the intention is “to produce high quality products and provide services that complement and enhance the flavor of ‘Brand Saint Lucia’.”
He said the SMA remains committed to this business of developmental transition as “this will allow us to play our part in steering all sectors in a prosperous, equitable and mutually beneficial direction.”
Noting the timeliness and significance of this ‘historic’ MOU, Acting Minister of Commerce, Dr. Pauline Antione-Prospere remarked: “It is a momentous occasion, marking the evolution of sectorial collaboration in the interest of national development.”
She described it as an “admirable…and commendable” undertaking, given that this development is being led by the private sector and spearheaded by the SLHTA.
Dr. Antoine-Prospere continued, “It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated the world economy with tourism dependent nations like St Lucia being among the most significantly impacted.”
She said, this crisis has “skewed our objectives and focused us to review our strategies. Therefore …we are gathered here in a completely new situation compared to what existed last year.”
Dr. Antoine-Prospere asserted: “It is imperative that we work together to achieve more and catapult our recovery as a nation…this signing of the Memorandum of Understanding denotes a willingness to build linkages and cement networks for local manufacturers whose challenges are too often overlooked in the overall thrust of national development.”
Cognizant of the SMA’s role in helping to negate against the economic challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the industry’s wider business outlook, she added: “The SMA has played a pivotal role in instilling business confidence, which is vital to the buoyancy of the economy, especially for the private sector which is the driver of growth and wealth creation in St Lucia.”
To complete the full circle, Dr. Antoine-Prospere identified the SLHTA as “the stalwarts of the sector that serves as a true example of this nation’s ability to compete on the global stage.”