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Tourism not important to ULP – Dr Friday

Tourism not important  to ULP – Dr Friday

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“All sweet words; no substance…”

This was how the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) Parliamentary Representative for the Northern Grenadines described the Government’s approach to this country’s tourism industry.

Speaking at a town hall meeting last Saturday in Mayreau, Dr Godwin Friday criticized the current administration for not marketing SVG in the best way possible to attract regional and international tourists.{{more}}

In particular, Friday claims that the SVG Tourism Authority was slated to have received $13 million from the Government in 2014 to carry out its functions, but was given much less.

“That was only words on a piece of paper. You know how much they actually gave the Tourism Authority that year? Three million dollars… The reason we know this is [that] this is government figures; I not making this up!”

The MP asserted that if an individual were to look at the Government’s estimates for that particular year, the figures would back up his claims.

“If you do that, it means that you are basically saying that tourism is not important to us,” he lamented. “If they are not important to the Government, then when why do we have a Minister of Tourism, why do we have a Tourism Authority? Why do we pretend that it matters?”

Also addressing the meeting was Leader of the Opposition and NDP president Arnhim Eustace, who further criticized the lack of development within the tourism sector.

Eustace alleged that in 2014, SVG was the only Caribbean country to register a decline in stay-over visitor arrivals.

“This is the concrete evidence that we need of the reality that we face in the tourism industry in St Vincent and the Grenadines!”

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT, chief executive officer of the SVG Tourism Authority Glen Beache acknowledged that there was a 1.4 per cent decline in stay-over visitor arrivals for 2014, but pointed out that Bermuda and Venezuela also registered similar declines in figures.

Beache asserted that the current administration has built up the local tourism industry “considerably” since it came into office.

“When ULP went into office in 2001, it more than doubled what tourism used to get… and has built it considerably over a number of years in terms of what we put into tourism.”

Beache further noted that there have been several projects implemented that were designed to boost the sector.

“The Government spent over $20 million on over 20 sites, improved them throughout St Vincent and the Grenadines. You now have the first hospitality and marine institute ever in the OECS being dealt out at Diamond – which is close to completion. You have the largest capital project in the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Now, while this involves agriculture and everything else, the main reason for it is tourism…”

He continued: “A lot of people fail to understand the industry and know what it’s about. One of the limitations that St Vincent and the Grenadines has had over the years has been access… I think the Government has shown throughout its projects and what tourism contributes to the economy, and in terms of the budget what tourism is given, that tourism is hugely important to the country and its policy. At least that’s the way that I see it.”

At the meeting last Saturday, Friday also lamented that hotels in the Grenadines used to operate all year round, but now are forced to close soon after the Easter period until business picks up again.

“So, you work for five months of the year and shut for seven. How is that a business? And it wasn’t always like that; it doesn’t have to be that way!”

Friday urged the public to vote out the current administration in the upcoming elections, as he claims that it has continually made promises that have not been fulfilled – with the tourism, agriculture and fishing industries being the biggest examples.

He insisted that the NDP is the better choice to take this country forward in terms of development, and accused the Government of not caring about its citizens, only being interested in improving the fortunes of themselves and their families.

“So, you have some people who are living at a certain level, and then the rest of us who are catching hell,” he said with dismay.

“We’re supposed to be doing better, not worse; that is what government is supposed to deliver. And if they don’t do that, we should get rid of them because they don’t know what they’re doing.” (JSV)

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