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A Holistic Analysis Needed

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SEARCHLIGHT’s Midweek editorial of July 19, 2011, focused on the matter of tourism with a caption “We Must Get Tourism Ready”. It was influenced by the announcement of the pull out of the ‘Princess Cruise Line’ from St.Vincent and the Grenadines during the 2011-2012 season. It was also prompted by the serious economic climate. In its view, tourism seemed the best bet for our failing economic fortunes, but our country has a lot of catching up to do.{{more}} It suggests that the withdrawal of the Princess Cruise Line from St.Vincent and the Grenadines and the performance of the Tourism industry generally would have been influenced to some extent by the global economic environment, but admitted that there were other home grown reasons. Among these home grown reasons were the perception of this country as one that was unfriendly to tourists. It argued that Vincentians were not prepared “to make social adjustments to facilitate the development of this social sector.” It felt that “A tremendous amount of work from education and awareness-raising, to the improvement of the physical, recreational and social environment needs to be done in this regard.” The future of the industry depended on the remedying of what it referred to as ‘many ills’. These ills include the state of facilities, bad roads, insensitivity to physically -challenged persons, transport and hotel shortcomings, congestion and cleanliness of Kingstown and our failure to appreciate the value of this vital industry to our very survival.”

All of this sounds good and one has to admit that in recent times some effort has been made to upgrade some of the facilities. It will be interesting to know who benefits most from the upgrading of these facilities. I ask this because it will be good, to know where our priorities lie with regard to the tourists that we hope to attract to our country. Is our focus right and are those the ones who patronise these upgraded facilities? We have also to realise that we cannot put the Tourist sector in a vacuum. Tourism should grow out of the life of a society. I am making this point to say that we cannot go about doing things simply to satisfy the tourists. We have to satisfy the needs of the people of the country, and in this manner things will be passed on to the tourists, and the tourism industry will benefit. Our roads must be repaired and maintained not for the Tourists but for the people of the country. Tourists will then benefit. If we have scant regard for the physically challenged we are not going to change for the tourists. The same thing applies for the satisfaction of our recreational and social environmental needs. Stay- over tourists do not all take taxis to go to wherever they want to go. Some of them take mini-vans. The mini-van situation is out of order on many fronts. We must improve the service in this area not for the tourists but for the people of the country. In the process the needs of tourists will be satisfied.

The argument that we are not ‘tourist friendly’ does not surprise me. We are not friendly to our own people, our brothers and sisters, so why do we expect these same people to be friendly to tourists? When criticisms are made about the divisions in our country, about the breakdown of law and order and about ill discipline we have to realise that these will be manifested in all areas of the life of the country. We are unlikely to have one style for our own people and another for the tourists. If we do little to maintain our services generally we are unlikely to have a different approach in the tourism industry. There will not be one thing for the people of the country and a different mindset for the tourists. So here is where we have to start.

Linking in to the UK Phone Hacking Issue

With the wide availability of cable television, many persons would have been following developments in England over the Phone Hacking Issue. There are many areas of this crisis that we should reflect on; the relationship between the media and those in political office, the resignation of public officials once entangled in matters of public interest, the issues that are being raised over accountability, transparency, conflict of interest and bribery, the Prime Minister realising that he has to answer to parliament and through parliament to the public, the matter of journalistic ethics. This is far from being over and in the long run what will be of significance is the way forward. In our countries we act differently. We pay lip service to conflict of interest issues. We talk about accountability and transparency but hardly ever practice them. Sometimes our politicians act as if the general public has no right to ask questions of them and to discuss matters which are and should be in the public domain. While a few people in our country will speak out on issues, the majority of us remain quiet as if these are matters that should not concern us. Serious allegations of corruption are often made, but after some discussion, mainly through talk radio, they disappear, and then we go on to another one, and the same process follows. In such situations people simply bide their time knowing that the talk will go away and they will live to fight another day and many other days.

Quite often we hear talk of our country facing an economic crisis. We pull out specific aspects or areas of our life and talk about the problems being faced. But it is worse than this. Our whole society is in crisis. The issue is holistic and one aspect feeds on another. This is why I addressed the issue of tourism, drawing on the SEARCHLIGHT’S editorial. The problems in tourism cannot be addressed independent of the other problems facing this society. In my view, one of the more serious problems we face has to do with ill discipline. But then add to this a break down in values, lack of community spirit and respect, our political cold war, and we will realise that we will get nowhere. When you mention all of this you are depicting an environment that is not conducive to a tourism friendly attitude, and in fact is not favourable to any meaningful and serious development in any area of our life. Until we look at things holistically we will be fated to continue to talk the talk without walking the talk.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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