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Safety and Security, a Major Priority for Tourism Stakeholders as Cruise Season Opens

By Reginald Andrew

With next week Wednesday’s arrival of the cruise vessel ‘Celebrity Millennium’, which incidentally heralds the commencement of the 2022/2023 cruise season, major stakeholders in the tourism industry are discussing safety and security as a priority for the destination.

That discussion started last week in an interactive session and included plans for the opening of the cruise sector.

Tourism Officer – Maritime Sector, Samantha Charles explained that ahead of the cruise season, the ministry found it “beneficial” to bring together all tourism-related partners and stakeholders to discuss pertinent issues relating to the cruise sector with a view to offering a more relaxed atmosphere for the visitors.

“We are also looking at areas pertaining to logistics at the ports, anything that needs amending, and tightening to ensure that the guest experience is heightened,” Charles told reporters.

The tourism officer said the department was also looking into areas of traffic management and to “have proper coordination with our land transportation providers in meeting the needs of our visitors. But, also in ensuring that we have very little or no congestion at our main areas of pick up, like La Place Carenage”.

While noting that safety and security is a critical component under review, Charles stressed that the input from members of Saint Lucia’s police force and traffic department were also important in the process “to identify any additional safety measures that can allow for a very positive environment for our visitors to enjoy the St. Lucian product.”

She said the St Lucia Air and Seaports Authority (SLASPA) has indicated that at least four vessels will be making their inaugural visit to the destination and the ministry is looking forward to embrace this latter development.

Charles says there is room for optimism with the arrival schedule, which indicates a “very vibrant and robust season for the year 2022/23.”

Siovhan Beaubrun, Director of Tour Operations – Cox &Co. Ltd., disputed claims from certain sectors or groups stating that the company was conducting ‘unfair operations’.  The tour operator labelled the criticisms as “unfair comments”, since, according to her “we’ve always tried to work with the taxi drivers, we always try to share the work and we don’t believe in not sharing.”

Beaubrun reiterated that “safety and security” of the guests remains a top priority and “we have to work together to make sure they are safe and that they also enjoy their stay in Saint Lucia and they leave with a good impression.”

There has been concerns about the level of ‘visitor harassment’ exhibited by some taxi workers, especially evident on the schedule tour days as the visitors make the trek out of La Place Carenage onto a busy Jeremie Street, and also complaints of harassment on the beaches and at other attraction sites with persons desperately seeking to eke out some financial gains their trade.  “We as a country …we have to work together to try our best to make it culture where we want to support our local economy , but we have to do it in a way that it benefits everybody and we all feel comfortable on island.”

Beaubrun informed that there is a wide ‘resource pool’ of visitors to the island with a mix of European, Canadian, and the USA citizens arriving at the destination.

With ‘safety and security’ as a major concern, (acting) Assistant Commissioner of Police (ASP) Ronald Phillip spoke on the unit’s approach and readiness to deal with the situation.

Said Phillip: “We as an organisation, we recognize the economic impact and symbiotic relationship that exists between economics and security. As a police force …it is of primary importance that we do all within our power to ensure that an enhanced policing product is delivered.”

Referring to monitoring of criminal ‘hotspots’ within the city environment and further afield, he said, there has been increase or “enhanced police presence …and over the last few weeks, the police has made significant strides in terms of recovery of firearms and recovery of ammunition”.

He said the support from partner agencies is critical with regards to “the importance of tourism to the common person”, and so, citizens should play their part, as the law enforcement officers “constantly review our strategies, moving forward.”

ACP Phillip said over the past three months there has been a ‘heightened police presence’ on the streets and in the communities and “this is not just there for the cruise ships, but generally to keep St Lucia safe.”

With regards to more police presence as in ‘foot soldiers’ on the beat, he said, the police are currently restructuring their operations in an effort to reorganize and to re-energise the deployment of resources.

Phillip asserts that moving forward, “there will be an increased police presence within the city and its environs.”

And in boosting the police operations for the season, he said, there are some small strategies being implemented like the cancellation of vacation leave and these are “some small strategies we can take to mitigate against the absence of policing…but moving forward, we will see more police (officers) on the streets.”

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