Tourism Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire has endorsed a public apology issued Monday by the Chairperson of Saint Lucia’s National COVID-19 Management Centre (CMC), Cletus Springer, in response to public concern over an’ authorised cruise tourism operation’ on a ‘no movement Sunday.’
Hilaire’s endorsement of Springer’s apology came in a Facebook post, in which he also addressed the activities that took place on Sunday.
The Minister’s complete Facebook post appears below:
20 years ago, Hon Philip J Pierre invited me to join him as Minister of Tourism to attend World Travel Market (WTM) in London. WTM is one of the world largest tourism trade shows and is held during the first week of November. This week, I am attending as Saint Lucia’s Minister for Tourism and Hon. Pierre is now Prime Minister. The task of leading the transformation and growth of our tourism industry is now mine. It is my noble duty and I am privileged. I will give it my best effort.
I must address the activities which took place on Sunday and the public outcry. I have noted the public apology issued by the Chairman of the COVID-19 Management Centre and the given assurance that there will be better communication moving forward. I endorse his apology. But for me it is deeper than that. Let me explain.
I was always aware that the previous Government administration had formulated and agreed to plans for the resumption of cruise tourism. What has preoccupied us since coming into office were the protocols for passengers to enter and disembark. In the interests of safety and mitigating the risks, we changed what was originally intended and after much negotiations with the cruise lines and CMO we reached a reasonable compromise. Passengers are now required to be vaccinated and present a negative COVID-19 test on embarkation.
However, what I did not give sufficient attention to was the activities that passengers would engage in whilst in Saint Lucia during a ‘no-movement’ day. I have supported stopping boat rides, watersports, beach parties and other activities which Saint Lucians cannot enjoy. Personally, I presumed that all the industry stakeholders would have understood that only approved activities would have been allowed on a ‘no-movement’ day. For me, most of these activities which took place on Sunday should not be approved activities. Clearly, there is a miscommunication in the decision making process. For this and the disappointment of my people, I apologise.
I was one of the most vocal persons against the ‘two Saint Lucias’ and discriminating against residents in the implementation of the protocols. As a Minister, I will not allow what I championed against to happen freely. There has to be a very good reason why exemptions are made.