In a message on Monday to mark World Tourism Day, Tourism Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire highlighted the need for Saint Lucia to continue building resilience and sustainability in its vital tourism industry, even as the Island deals with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this regard, the Minister said all must participate in rebuilding the sector.
“As we continue to combat COVID-19, now more than ever, an inclusive approach is required to ensure that we all return to work to secure our livelihoods and provide for our families. We must all participate in the rebuilding of this sector in such a way that there is greater benefit to citizens and communities, and greater resilience in the ability of the sector to cushion against the impact of this crisis and any in the future,” the Minister asserted.
“When there are interruptions to travel and trade, there is an immediate domino effect on economies across the world, especially in small island developing states like Saint Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean,” Hilaire said.
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“With the reopening of the industry and further development in the COVID-19 era, we must address the distribution of wealth to all the actors within the tourism value chain to increase employment opportunities and reduce poverty. It is the ethos of my Government to ensure that as part of employment opportunities, Saint Lucians become owners and operators of more tourism businesses, with a focus on developing strong linkages with agriculture, the youth economy, and the digital age,” Hilaire stated.
He explained that already, many people depend on tourism.
Hilaire said they include travel agents, airport staff, taxi drivers, tour companies, hotel workers, vendors and artists, villa rental owners, boat operators, and watersports operators, beach and market vendors, entertainers, crafts-persons and duty-free shops.
“The World Travel and Tourism Council predicts that if the global vaccine rollout continues at pace, and travel restrictions are relaxed just before the busy summer season, the 62 million jobs lost in 2020 could steadily return by 2022,” the Castries South MP disclosed.
Hilaire said Saint Lucia has made great progress in the reopening of the industry, and to date approximately 8,500 workers have been re-employed.
He also revealed that 290 vacation rental properties have been certified and are experiencing higher bookings, while 35 hotels have reopened their doors and report satisfactory occupancy rates.
“Over 20 car rental companies and over 1,500 taxi drivers have returned to work. The cruise sector has reopened, albeit at low volumes. Since the relaxation of travel protocols for vaccinated persons, the destination has now recorded a total of 110,116 stay-over arrivals to date, achieving almost 54% of pre COVID-19 figures for the Second Quarter as well as exceeding projections by 11% for the overall targets as part of the recovery,” the Tourism Minister declared.
But he observed that sustaining a responsible reopening requires a national effort.
“It requires that all Saint Lucians adhere to the protocols, build vaccine confidence with strong uptake and focus on taking advantage of opportunities for growth,” Hilaire expressed.
His entire message appears below: