This Week at the SLHTA: Launch of Community Tourism Agency a Watershed!

The recently launched Community Tourism Agency has received a thumbs up from SLHTA CEO Noorani Azeez
The recently launched Community Tourism Agency has received a thumbs up from SLHTA CEO Noorani Azeez

The scenic Anse la Raye Waterfront played host to the launch of the Community Tourism Agency (CTA) on Thursday, November 3. In attendance at the highly anticipated launch were a number of government officials including Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre, Tourism Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire, members of Cabinet, diplomats and tourism stakeholders.

The CTA, through its Community Tourism Programme, will seek to “improve access and affordability for financing and develop incentives that will stimulate investment in small tourism businesses.” The agency will offer entrepreneurs business and operational support, training and a range of financing avenues, including:

-Access to grant funding
-Access to loans at preferred rates
-Unsecured loans up to XCD$100,000
-Lending packages up to XCD$300,000
-Low interest rates of 1-4%
-Duty Free Concessions/Tax Reliefs

“It gives me great pleasure to come before you today and to sit among you as a witness to this watershed moment that is about to be unlocked with the launch of the CTA,” said SLHTA CEO Noorani Azeez. “Watershed moment because notwithstanding the various efforts that we have pioneered in the past, for me this registers our commitment to working with communities in Saint Lucia to ensure that the benefits of tourism redound to each and every one.”

Azeez noted that historically communities have had many concerns: “Legitimate concerns about access to financing opportunities; legitimate concerns about equal access to incentives and concessions; legitimate concerns about access to skills and hand-holding that would allow them to represent their interests in the food chain of the tourism industry.”

He continued: “The launch of the CTA hails a promise that there is an entity that will work with communities partners to build wealth…Our communities indeed need access to financial resources, they do need access to skills training and development; they need access to expertise in accounting and marketing and it is very encouraging to see that these are already on the cards to ensure that we put our best foot forward and we harness the full value of community tourism.”

What is trending in the tourism industry, he noted, are travellers that are eager to walk our streets, engage with our people and experience day-to-day life. Pointing to Collection de Pépites, the bar-hopping excursion Kabawé Krawl and the CTA, Azeez heaped praised on the Ministry of Tourism for “being serious about ensuring that the wealth of tourism meets the needs of the common man.”

For this initiative to be truly successful, he noted, it is imperative that the process is kept simple. “Let us look at how we can brand and package what is unique to the households and the streets and the communities right around us and put this in the arena of the international world-class stage!”

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