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SVG poised for tourism take-off?


Tue, Jan 10. 2012

St Vincent and the Grenadines is still bubbling with the news that four major international media houses (CNN, Travel and Leisure, NBC’s Today Show and the New York Times) have recommended our lovely multi-island state as a tourist destination to be sought and enjoyed.{{more}} This included ranking our country among the top destinations in the entire world. To crown it all, the top-rated cruise line, Royal Caribbean, last Friday announced that for the first time in its 40-year history, it is adding St Vincent and the Grenadines as part of its Southern Caribbean tour.

These represent a major boost for Vincentian tourism prospects. We offer hearty congratulations to our tourism officials and workers, here and abroad, whose hard work must have contributed to our rating. Such recognition does not come easily, given the intense global competition with countries large and small, all trying to benefit from their tourism products.

Interestingly, one cannot help but note the role of the international airport, currently under construction at Argyle, in all this. Our country has always been renowned for its natural beauty, but getting here has been a perennial headache for would-be visitors. The completion of the Argyle airport provides us with a solution to the air access problem. Much has been said concerning the airport, ranging from cost to technical factors, to plain political obstructionism, but the openings offered by the international publicity should convince all genuine patriots, not to mute genuine concerns, but to stop the mindless haggling and get aboard the train in support of the successful completion of the project.

“All aboard”, must become an important rallying cry to promote our tourism. Having physical attractions is one thing, learning to create and sustain an enabling environment, is another. Year after year, the praises for the natural heritage of St Vincent and the Grenadines ring loud from visitors. However, there are major challenges which must be addressed, and quickly too. Our capital city, Kingstown, is no longer a pedestrian-friendly town. Additionally, congestion and unsightly ad hoc structures negate its attractiveness. The route down Bay Street from the Cruise Ship berth is a case in point. We have beautiful tourism sites, but the access roads to these sites literally cry out for attention. More attention needs to be paid to the Grenadines, a major revenue earner.

Then, there are the people of our country. We are simply not tourism conscious, not sufficiently aware that success in this field depends on our attitude towards tourists (some misguided persons are not only hostile, but encourage others in such negativity), towards protecting and preserving our sites, towards cleanliness of our environs, towards developing the range of products and services we offer, so as to maximize returns; all these must be addressed.

In tourism, word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing. If there are negative experiences to relay, we will all suffer. The exposure provided by the international media provides a great launch pad for tourism growth; we need to take advantage of the opportunities offered and work to sustain interest in our country. This calls for a united all-out effort involving the Physical Planning authorities, Town Board, Public Health, Police (especially the traffic department), taxi and tour operators, street vendors, hotel and restaurant owners, and not just the Tourism authorities, but the entire range of government institutions, as well as the entire population. We are posed for a tourism take-off, but it will not materialize unless we act positively.