Tourism contributes substantially to the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, if properly managed, has the potential to make an even bigger contribution. The inability of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) regime to develop our full tourism potential is due to ineffective marketing, inadequate infrastructure, the lack of planning and the absence of specialized personnel in the industry. The New Democratic Party (NDP) will place emphasis on the continued development of the tourism sector as it has done in the past.
The main objectives of the NDP on tourism development will be to accomplish the following: the growth of tourism’s contribution to GDP, creating employment opportunities at all levels throughout the society, creating linkages with other economic sectors and to generate foreign exchange.
We have not yet fully developed this lucrative aspect of the economy. The potential for growth is not surprising since St. Vincent and the Grenadines possesses a wide range of tourists’ attractions. These include natural attractions such as: landscapes, scenic beauty, wildlife, beaches, historical attractions, monuments, forts, and a number of unique cultural activities. Its breathtaking natural beauty and diverse attractions, should normally entice a wide variety of visitors, which should solidify tourism as one of the pillars of our economy and a major foreign exchange earner. However, over the past several years, the fortunes of the tourism sector have been in decline.
For instance, the Cruise Ship season has begun; but we have not capitalized on this category. The other islands in the OECS are attracting more cruise ship visitors than us. Figures from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank showed that in 2018, there were 217, 876 cruise ship passengers to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. St. Lucia had 760,306; Grenada, 342,826; St. Kitts and Nevis, 1, 067, 647 and Antigua had 794, 604 for the same year. St. Kitts and Nevis, the smallest in the grouping had 849, 771 cruise ship visitors more than St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2018. We can do better.
The NDP will work with the private sector and all relevant stake holders in developing a Cruise Tourism Policy which is focused on manageable numbers, with a fair distribution between all appropriate ports throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The NDP also sees the improvement of Kingstown as an integral part of a successful cruise policy, and will work assiduously in developing a short to medium term development strategy towards this end. Identification and development of appropriate strategies will be critical to achieving the level of visitor expenditure that will be desirable. The development of sourcing of products and supplies for cruise ships and encouraging the employment of Vincentian nationals on board cruise ships will be other important thrusts in the NDP’s cruise tourism development policy.
Meanwhile, the yachting industry is in a state of growth internationally. With an increasing number of persons retiring early, and higher average incomes, there is an increasing amount of leisure time. However, it would appear that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not positioned to take advantage of this lucrative sector. The ill-advised policies by the ULP regime and the negative publicity of crime committed against yacht passengers have negatively affected the yachting sector. For example, in 2006; 93,638 yacht passengers visited St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The number of arrivals by yacht was reduced to 56, 826 in 2018; a decline of 39.3%.
The NDP will diversify of our tourism product. We will target specific areas to promote and develop, such as diving, yachting, cruise tourism, ecotourism, retirees/returnees, local festivals and cultural events like carnival, music festivals, Gospel Fest and Nine Mornings. Target marketing in Europe, Canada, United States of America, and the Caribbean. We will also develop, in collaboration with airlines, hoteliers, travel agents and other service providers; special tour packages for Caribbean tourists to boost regional tourism, especially in the off-season. Develop marinas and other yachting facilities in suitable locations throughout the country, such as in Bequia, the Southern Grenadines and Villa; and promote high-end stay-over visitors.
Further, the NDP will encourage investment in small to mid-size luxury hotels and villas to attract visitors seeking a special experience and destination and promote yachting. Special programs will be developed to attract yacht cruising visitors and encourage them to stay longer within St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ waters. We will enhance existing tourism sites and utilize our historical heritage and natural beauty and develop new ones throughout the country. We will also develop cable cars in North Leeward and eco-tourism trails in various areas and local craft makers will be encouraged and assisted to produce and sell indigenous crafts.
We will work vigorously to develop this sector and transform St. Vincent and the Grenadines into a leading destination in the Caribbean, through the following: establish and operate a first-class tourism training institute. This will improve the delivery of high-quality service in the tourism industry. We will ensure security in our harbours and bays by regular coastguard patrols and police foot patrols in resort areas and beaches. Special attention will be given to the prevention, harassment and other criminal activities against visitors. Prompt prosecution of offences against visitors will be done. A special police unit will be created and tasked with investigating crimes against yacht visitors and other tourists. And seek to reduce the travel cost and to improve the reliability and frequency of air service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines
It is crystal clear that the ULP regime does not have a clue as to how to manage the tourism industry. They are incompetent. We are aware of the importance of tourism to the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The NDP is committed to the development of the tourism sector and will work vigorously to develop this sector and transform St. Vincent and the Grenadines into a leading tourist destination in the Caribbean.