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A solemn tourism message

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Editor: As our nation celebrates tourism month, I wish to take this opportunity to address us on the important theme of “Keeping tourism alive beyond 2005”.

The latest events in Paris, France have triggered many serious thoughts in my mind concerning SVG’s tourism as I am made to consider the effects of societal problems on this sector. During my studies in tourism and hospitality in Nimes I attended lectures on Tourismology. The term was invented by one Jean Michel Heorner who is currently the president of AMFORHT (The World Association for Hospitality and Tourism Education and Training.) No doubt it was the first time I was hearing the term and for me, one of the highpoints of the lectures was the simple explanation of the fact that Tourism science crosses over into almost all the other sciences. {{more}} Yes, tourism involves nutrition, law, ecology, geography, sociology, politics, etc as it is seen to be directly dealing with the human being…the tourist…and all that involves him as he travels and stays in different places.

France’s Example

This knowledge was revived in my mind lately as I followed closely the events in Paris and other cities of France, where for the last 15 days now there has been rioting, mainly in the suburban areas, in protest against social ills experienced by certain sections of the society. Young people of African and Arab descent burned cars, etc in protest against the government whom they blame for the inequality, unemployment, racism/discrimination and poverty that they experience in the suburbs. There is a general cry for the resignation of Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy-the minister of internal affairs who has been accused of using racial and provocative language against the suburb dwellers. Lately, the number of cars burnt per night has decreased as the government put measures, such as curfews, into place to curb the rioting.

Let us consider the blow to France’s image that this uprising has had. In the Wednesday November 9th edition of “Le Figaro” (French newspaper), Eric de la Chesnais wrote an article whose title translates to “Tourists reluctant to come to Paris”. He highlighted comments from hotels like Hilton as they complained about cancellations and numerous questions from tourists about the security of the hotels in Paris. The minister of tourism, Leon Bertrand, finds the situation worrying enough to exclaim, “France is today the number one tourist destination in the world. Our competitors have every interest in what the negative images express about us. We must be vigilant. Tourism is an important sector for our economy.” The US, England, Japan, Russia and Australia have all made calls to their citizens to postpone trips to France. As an intern student at the reception of the Holiday Inn hotel in south west Paris, I’ve counted more than 5 clients so far who have questioned me about security as they prepare to go out.

Home front

An experienced country like France has the economic base to bounce back from such a crisis. The Eiffel tower will remain a ‘must see’….It is said, “See Paris and die”. Can SVG’s tourism survive such crises, however? Can we afford an image that is considered as unsafe? Tourism is perhaps 10 times more important to our country’s economy than it is to diverse economies like France.

So we must exert great efforts to protect our image to keep tourism alive. But the lesson France can teach us today is not so much about threats from outside but the threats that develop inside the nation itself due to inadequate address of internal problems. Are Vincentians happy with the justice system? Are crimes being resolved and perpetrators being brought to justice? Is there police brutality? Are our returning graduates frustrated because of unemployment? Are feelings of discrimination and victimisation mounting? Are our politicians playing games for power while not addressing the real issues of the people? Are we dealing with poverty or are there more homeless children on the streets? Is there equal opportunity for all? Let us judge ourselves honestly. And if we have such sores and they are left to fester, our dream of keeping tourism alive beyond 2005 will dry up like a raisin in the sun. My dear people, let us be realistic in our tourism drive. It’s not just about tourist attractions and beautiful landscapes which we are privileged to have.

No matter how scenic SVG is, if our image is not maintained, tourists will not step foot here. Regard for God’s law and His righteousness seen reflected in proper execution of law and justice with respect for human rights, will save us many troubles. Let’s learn from the experiences of others.

Finally for those who may think that we are immune to such uprisings, take a quote from the great king leader Solomon who said, “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people” and I add…. any people whether it be France or SVG.

Anesia Richards

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