Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the St Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association [SLHTA], Senator Noorani Azeez is lauding the input of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) for helping to provide support for hospitality workers and destitute families in midst of the economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
While delivering a review of the SLHTA/TEF project at last week’s SLHTA annual general meeting, he said, the implementation of the project has also provided assistance to several local institutions.
He mentioned initiatives such as; Adopting of the Pediatric Ward at the OKEU Hospital, and donation of bicycles to officers of the Royal St Lucia Police Force [RSLPF] to conduct mobile patrols.
“Notwithstanding the prevailing challenges associated with the recovery efforts, we were able to align our projects into key thematic areas , each of which will play a very significant role in the allocation of the association’s resources over the next 12 months,” said Azeez, also the TEF deputy-chairperson.
“These areas of priority are …health, human resource development, citizens’ security, policy and advocacy, environmental affairs, food security, community engagement and membership support,” he noted.
Azeez added that a pivotal role in the SLHTA’s mission, this year, “was to rekindle relationships with the public and private sectors, as well as, civil society.”
He said though a lot of the SLHTA’s activities were restricted due to protocol regulations, “efforts were made to utilize virtual meetings as a forum to keep members connected.
Azeez further disclosed there was an increase in corporate membership, as well as individual members to the SLHTA over the last 12 months “and we saw the admirable expansion of our Group Medical Insurance Plan’, which …has become one of the largest in the private sector.”
TEF’s Project Manager, Donette Ismael spoke about the wide scope of the project and creating that public outreach. “The SLHTA’s Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) understood our purpose and with the same like-mindess (approach), which is to serve – our motto …they showed their outpouring support, apart from a shared challenge.”
Ismael described the adoption of the Pediatric Ward, as “giving a child a breathing chance” and purchasing the most necessary equipment to provide wheels, and other forms of assistance to the hospital. She said they also assisted the RSLPF “to get bicycles that they would be able to mobilize efficiently… to assist persons in the time of need.”
The TEF project manager disclosed that over the past 12 months, the fund has provided more than $5million, spread over at least 300 projects.
Chairperson of the TEF Winston Anderson highlighted the achievements of the fund and support provided over the past year. “Central to our governance of the fund has been the introduction of a representative from the public sector on the board of the TEF,” he said, while noting the representatives came from the ministry of finance and the St Lucia Air and Seaport Authority (SLASPA).
Anderson assured that the intent of the stakeholders is “to ensure the TEF operates with the highest level of credibility.”
He said the membership was particularly pleased with the contributions made by the TEF over the past year, “to the ongoing recovery and success in the tourism sector, with projects that empower our community, develop our people, support very importantly our valued workers at a time when you are most needed, and preserve our environment.”
Anderson shared that other than assisting the health ministry, “the primary purpose of the TEF over the past year has been providing support for tourism workers – our partners in the industry and the communities in which they reside.”