The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Peter Josie

There are at least three di­men­sions nec­es­sary and es­sen­tial to the suc­cess of the lo­cal tourism in­dus­try. Since its elec­tion into of­fice we have heard ad nau­seam the lead­ing role tourism is to play in the so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the is­land. No one can deny this gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy on tourism. It is front and cen­ter - the first di­men­sion in a vi­sion of de­vel­op­ment. It is the cru­cial start­ing point, a vi­sion if you pre­fer, of the so­cial and eco­nomic thrust the gov­ern­ment re­lies on to build a bet­ter, stronger so­ci­ety. In ad­di­tion, cit­i­zens have been pro­vided with some de­tails of the many ho­tels soon to be built or ex­panded. That’s good! Many un­em­ployed per­sons ea­gerly look to th­ese new es­tab­lish­ments for em­ploy­ment.

Thank­fully, the tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try has a solid foun­da­tion on which to build. I re­fer to the warmth, kind­ness and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the vast ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple of this is­land who work in the tourism, hos­pi­tal­ity and ser­vice in­dus­try. I call this the sec­ond di­men­sion. It is as cru­cial as the first. That qual­ity in the peo­ple of Saint Lucia is a pos­i­tive fea­ture that has been re­peat­edly ob­served by vis­i­tors to the is­land over many years. It’s an as­set to be jeal­ously guarded and still vigourously pro­moted. Un­for­tu­nately, some peo­ple who need to be eman­ci­pated from men­tal slav­ery, still equate ser­vice with sub­servience. How sad!

It is worth not­ing the breadth and scope of the peo­ple here who in­ter­face with the vis­i­tor, whether ar­riv­ing by sea or air. Cus­toms, im­mi­gra­tion, sales clerks, travel agents, taxi driv­ers, tour op­er­a­tors and of course, ho­tel em­ploy­ees and ven­dors, all in­ter­face with our guests. Then there are co­conut and other road side ven­dors that are not to be brushed aside. Tourism and the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try touch the lives of many on this is­land, as ba­nana pro­duc­tion and ex­port once did. Ex­pe­ri­ence tells us that Saint Lu­cians, who come in con­tact with vis­i­tors, whether from the Caribbean or else­where, de­serve a huge pass mark for mak­ing each vis­i­tor feel wel­come. A clear pol­icy di­rec­tion plus the pos­i­tive at­ti­tude of Saint Lu­cians are the first and sec­ond di­men­sions on which a long last­ing tourism in­dus­try may be built. But there re­mains at least one more cru­cial di­men­sion to com­plete the tri­umvi­rate to a suc­cess­ful tourism in­dus­try.

That third di­men­sion is one which is sadly ne­glected and now cries out for ur­gent at­ten­tion. I re­fer to the gen­eral ap­pear­ance and clean­li­ness of the is­land. This is some­thing sep­a­rate and apart from the beau­ti­ful hills and val­leys with which this is­land is blessed. And even here one can still see the large scars left on hill­sides by mas­sive ero­sion from reck­less de­for­esta­tion and poor land use.

In com­par­i­son, note the pris­tine con­di­tion in which the grounds and sur­round­ing ar­eas of ho­tels are kept by em­ploy­ees who do their jobs dili­gently. Why can’t work­ers in the pub­lic sec­tor do the same? What do vis­i­tors see when they step out­side their ho­tels, or ven­ture into the city from a cruise ship or yacht? How do we ex­plain those un­sightly clogged drains, over­grown grass and trees nar­row­ing the road­way, and garbage pile-up in cer­tain ar­eas? It has been said that there is money in garbage. That say­ing does not seem to hold wa­ter on this is­land. Do we need out­side ex­perts to teach us how to keep our is­land clean?

Not sat­is­fied with im­prop­erly dis­pos­ing garbage, we pro­ceed to fur­ther de­spoil the land­scape with derelict ve­hi­cles all over the is­land. Old bro­ken down and un­sightly rust­ing ve­hi­cles and ex­ces­sive garbage may not be seen in the same light as a homi­cide, but it is surely cry­ing out for at­ten­tion. It is dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand the men­tal­ity of peo­ple who lit­ter. Some non­cha­lantly wind down their ex­pen­sive tinted car win­dows in or­der to throw garbage out in the open. Univer­sity grad­u­ates and highly placed pub­lic ser­vants are not blame­less in this. Some peo­ple throw garbage from their ve­hi­cles with­out stop­ping or slow­ing down. Don’t th­ese peo­ple know bet­ter? Per­haps an ex­am­ple ought to be made, us­ing the Lit­ter Act.

There is an even larger mat­ter which dis­fig­ures the en­vi­ron­ment. I re­fer to large rust­ing empty con­tain­ers. Whose job is it to re­move th­ese un­sightly rust­ing con­tain­ers from the en­vi­ron­ment? What hap­pens when those re­spon­si­ble do not act?

In the mid-1980s Min­is­ter Ro­manus Lan­siquot (Tourism) launched a cleanup cam­paign that in­cluded the re­moval and ship­ping out of derelict ve­hi­cles from the is­land. Has there been a sim­i­lar cleanup ef­fort in the last twenty-five years? Cheap politics had ac­cused him of clean­ing up for the tourists. The Min­is­ter was too busy to ask his de­trac­tors who ben­e­fits most from progress, the vis­i­tor or those who live here? Were his de­trac­tors sug­gest­ing that the derelict ve­hi­cles would be re­turned af­ter the tourists left?

There is value in build­ing new and more beau­ti­ful ho­tels. Th­ese cer­tainly en­hance the beauty and value of the is­land and the peo­ple. Man­i­cured grass and colour­ful flow­ers fur­ther en­hance the beauty of the is­land. But this must be backed up by a more de­ter­mined and con­certed ef­fort to clean-up the en­vi­ron­ment of derelict ve­hi­cles, con­demned rust­ing con­tain­ers and of course garbage and waste of all de­scrip­tions.

With in­creas­ing use of the weed wacker, road side drains have suf­fered the ne­glect of cut grass block­ing the free flow of wa­ter. Th­ese drains need ur­gent clear­ing es­pe­cially dur­ing the rainy sea­son.

Fi­nally, some arm chair crit­ics may think that es­ca­lat­ing crime, de­tec­tion and pun­ish­ment, may help sti­fle the growth of tourism. For my part, crime af­fects ev­ery cit­i­zen. Long af­ter the vis­i­tor has re­turned home Saint Lu­cians are left with the prob­lem of crime, in all its ugly forms. We must there­fore kill crime be­fore it kills us and our is­land. We do this for our­selves, not the tourist. We there­fore deem crime a sep­a­rate and cru­cial is­sue wor­thy of spe­cific at­ten­tion.

“A clear pol­icy di­rec­tion plus the pos­i­tive at­ti­tude of Saint Lu­cians are the first and sec­ond di­men­sions on which a long last­ing tourism in­dus­try may be built.”

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