McKie urges tourism stakeholders to continue working together
Tourism has played and continues to play an important role in driving the economy.
Last Saturday at the Sunset Shores in Villa during the 2019 tourism awards, Minister of Tourism, Sports and Culture Cecil McKie revealed that in 2017, 78,000 visitors came here by air, 51,000 by yacht and 174,000 by cruiseship, a total of 303,000. He added that in 2018, these figures went up by 53,000 to 356,000, an increase of 17%. That year marked an increase of 3500 visitors by air or 4.5%, 6000 more by yacht, a total of 57,000 and some 44,000 more cruise passengers, an increase of 25%.
According to McKie the first 10 months of 2019 have seen an increase of 6900 persons visiting here by air, an increase of 6.6%, while yacht visits have increased by 8.3%. Cruise passenger visits stand at 162,000 or 8.4% more than in 2018.
McKie said that source markets continue to be the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada and Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).
“With these increases, it is very important for us to continue to work together,” McKie told stakeholders while adding that in his opinion, 2019 has been special for St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
He said tourism is one of the main drivers of economic growth, so the stakeholders have a serious responsibility.
The tourism minister also noted that emphasis has been placed on the first impression people get when they enter the country, so soon, immigration and other cards that are usually filled out on arrival will be a thing of the past as the Ministry moves to make it easier for visitors.
McKie said the overall aim is to ensure that when visitors come, the service they get at every angle, allows them to have a unique experience, and in so doing, they will become ambassadors and spread positive news.
He said the Ministry is marketing the location through several visits overseas at marketing conferences and tourism shows while working with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).
McKie noted also that work is being done with the airlines and tour companies to ensure that the world continues to know more about SVG. He added that this country is quickly becoming known as a good host as it relates to sporting, cultural and religious events among other things.
“We have welcomed three international carriers doing weekly flights and in peak seasons they are putting on a second flight,” commented McKie while adding that the tourism season, which runs from November to April, seems to now be expanding.
He noted also that over the next two to three years, the room stock is expected to move from 2500 to around 4000, an increase that will come with the opening (or reopening) of hotels and resorts like the Marriott, Royal Mill, Holiday Inn, Buccament Bay and Black Sands.
Additionally, improvements to the product will come from the introduction of comfort stations and vending areas in places like Villa, Brighton and the Chatoyer National Park. The Cayo Village at Argyle will also be improved while a new recreational park is being planned for the Argyle area.
McKie also spoke about the geothermal project and the medicinal marijuana industry as having a positive impact on tourism.