New minister aims to take innovative look at St. Lucia’s tourism

CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA — Tourism in St. Lucia could be headed in a new direction that puts the island’s people at the center, according to newly sworn in Minister for Tourism, Investment, Creative Industries, Culture and Information Dr. Ernest Hilaire.

“Tourism is one of the main economic drivers of the Saint Lucian economy, which strengthens our supply chain, promotes economic development and creates significant employment,” Hilaire noted.

He added, “I think you will see a certain direction in keeping with our approach of always putting people first and causing people-centered development. So, in tourism, we will take a new look at tourism.

“We will want to promote community participation, people participation — ensuring that tourism is more than just figures, but is also about the earnings for the people of Saint Lucia.”

His comments appear to align with the direction former Prime Minister Allen Chastanet aimed to head in. Just a few weeks prior to his defeat, Chastanet said, “This crisis has given us the perfect economic lab to examine the impact of tourism, because we have lost it for 18 months.

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    “In Saint Lucia, we’ve had a 20 percent contraction in our economy; 90 percent of that was because of the inaccessibility of tourism… We now know, given the fallout, that the economic impact of tourism in our own destinations is very far-reaching and creates opportunities that maybe were not taken advantage of in better days.”

    Former Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee, shortly before being ousted, noted that the tourism sector alone accounted for 8,000 people being re-employed since the nation eased certain travel restrictions. At the time, he said “all efforts are geared towards the reinstatement of more employees during this difficult time and seeing more visitors come through our shores, which ultimately means a direct injection into our local economy”.

    According to government data, visitor arrivals up to May 2021 had recovered 81 percent of the US market as compared to May 2019. The St. Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) has also projected continued increases in tourist arrivals, which is expected to augur well for the return of jobs and economic stimuli as Hilaire seizes the reigns.

    “Given my experience, coupled with the amalgamation of my portfolios, which function inter-connectedly with our tourism product, I look forward to serving wholeheartedly, with focus on further bolstering the tourism sector and placing people at the center of the sector,” the new minister said.

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