The Saint Lucia Craft and Dry Goods Vendors Association is once again stressing on the need for equity in the arrangements for cruise ship visitors, as pre-arranged tour packages continue to be a problem for vendors.
According to the Association, pre-arranged packages prohibit visitors from exploring their facilities, thus affecting the sales of vendors.
“There is a growing trend of pre-arranged packages provided by vertically integrated operators which do not include or allow visitors to traverse our facilities. We believe that the government needs to examine the conduct of various players that depend on visitor arrivals, especially the cruise ship sector for their survival and to eliminate any unfair and uncompetitive business conduct and practices,” the Association stated at its bi-annual general meeting on Sunday, adding that it is unable to compete against vertically integrated firms “with deeper pockets and longer reach”.
“After all vendors and their families also pay taxes used to finance the construction and maintenance of our key tourism infrastructure and should be better catered for in our tourism product and service supply arrangements,” the Association added.
Whilst the Association called for government intervention, it also stressed on the importance of creativity, noting that it will attract more individuals to the craft markets.
The Association also spoke on the need for unity amongst vendors. According to the Association, unity amongst members is critical for its survival.
“One thing is certain, if we are to improve our situation with respect to the various challenges that we face, we need to work closely together and support our Association. We must face the reality of our circumstances that given the nature of our organization, made up of vendors which are largely very small or micro enterprises, we lack the economic weight, even collectively, to significantly influence government policy. It is therefore critical that vendors stick together in pursuit of our objectives that are in our mutual benefit,” the Association stated.
“As the old saying goes ‘united we stand together we fall’, the Association noted, urging members to resist attempts to divide the Association to advance the objectives of those who seek to destroy and weaken the Association.
The Association, Sunday, called on its members to be more strategic and innovative in what they do and to find creative ways to increase the variety of their products and the packaging and sale of those products.
And although the cruise ship sector has re-opened, the Association made it clear that life is far from normal for its vendors. Vendors are amongst those most affected by the pandemic, the Association indicated, as sales are significantly lower.
“By all indications we are not back to pre-pandemic levels as the volume of visitors coming through the Vendors Arcade as well as the Craft Market has declined considerably over the period under review, 2020-2022. Also, whereas in past years we have traditionally had cruise ship calls alternating on either side of the harbour (albeit with less numbers and frequency) throughout the off season, we have observed a marked decline in cruise ship calls to Saint Lucia in this current off season especially from May to present,” the Association stated adding that the situation is a major concern for vendors who depend on visitors for most of their sales.
“We are therefore calling on the authorities, especially the minister (for) tourism to help and to let us know what we can expect or what are the plans to mitigate the adverse effects of this difficult situation on vendors,” stated the Association, adding that vendors have felt the full brunt of the pandemic.