Press Release:- Several stakeholders have expressed high confidence in the protocols established for the reopening of the hotel and tourism sector in Saint Lucia, and are optimistic that the future of the sector is in capable hands.
The stakeholders, including representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Health and Wellness, SLASPA, the SLHTA, several of the hotels certified to reopen, taxi drivers, farmers and entertainers, met at a function entitled ‘Journey to Recovery’ hosted by Sandals Grande Saint Lucia Spa and Beach Resort.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Donalyn Vittet was high in praise for all parties who she said worked tirelessly in making the reopening of the sector possible.
“We may have some missteps but we will continue to work with you and listen to you, and we will continue to perfect the situation as much as we can because at the end of the day …persons are dependent on us, they may not be coming forward to say it publicly, but privately they are asking us to continue, because what we are doing is very, very powerful. In 100 or 200 years to come, we will all go down as part of the story.”
Apart from the five hotels now certified for reopening including Sandals Grande, Ladera, Bay Gardens, Sugar Beach and Stonefield, the P.S. revealed that several more hotels were due to come on stream shortly.
Noting that the tourism and hospitality accounted for almost 65% of the GDP of Saint Lucia, Managing Director of Sandals Saint Lucia Winston Anderson commended those working hard to restart the sector, adding that doing nothing was not an option.
“It will not be an easy journey. There will be obstacles that lie in our way. There might be painful lessons ahead, but we should never for one moment doubt that what we are doing is the right thing to do. Today we face a crisis that threatens our livelihoods, our health and the future of tens of millions of people all over the world. So what do you do in times of crisis? We adapt, we innovate, we persevere and we overcome.’
Ladera’s Christian Gandara said in all his years of experience he has never seen anything like what the sector is facing today.
“It’s very tough. All of us sitting in this room, we have a role to play. I believe that God put us in this place because we have to ensure that our employees are safe, that our guests are safe, that we are safe, and at the same time there are many people depending on what we do.’
Kenneth Phillip of Southern Taxi Drivers Association said that while they appreciate that there is a risk involved, several of their members felt it was important that they answer the call and support the reopening of the sector.
Meantime representatives of the farmer’s association as well as local entertainers acknowledged that the last three months were extremely difficult because of the closure of the hotels. World renowned musician Ronald ‘Boo’ Hinkson lamented that the closure of the hotels was a massive blow to entertainers.
“This has had a tremendous impact on the finances of most musicians, so the reopening of Sandals is something that we cannot overly emphasise and we are thankful for this. Sandals employs probably the most musicians in Saint Lucia and over the last three months we’ve felt it, all of us have felt it. I have no doubt that if any hotel can make this happen, it can be done here.”
Meantime CEO of the SLHTA, Noorani Aziz, felt confident that the stakeholders involved were capable of not only reopening Saint Lucia’s tourism sector safely, but of making it a model for other Caribbean islands to follow.
“In an age of chaos and confusion, I’ve had the distinguished pleasure of observing leadership from both the public and private sectors over the past few months that are worthy of emulation. This COVID experience will show beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have what it takes to be a resilient people and nation that continues to overcome.”