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The Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival is rated one of the largest tourism events on island, but the new members of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board (SLTB) believes that the festival is taking away too many resources from the $34 million annual budget allocated to that organisation.
Newly-appointed Chairperson of the SLTB Agnes Francis has said that since assuming leadership of the board, members have been spending time trying to understand the operations, and while doing so, they have discovered that one third of the annual budget of the SLTB is allocated to the Jazz Festival alone, which puts a strain on finances left for marketing.
“The Jazz Festival I must say is the vehement that has been driving the Tourist Board. In fact, the entire operations of the board revolves around the Jazz Festival at a certain point of the year. So from around March to June/July the entire focus of the board and its resources is on the Jazz Festival,” Francis told the media on Thursday.
In light of this, the new board has written Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee and the new government urging them to make a policy decision on the Jazz Festival, especially since no marketing activity takes place during preparations for Jazz, which in the board’s view, has a significant impact on its ability to generate arrivals for Saint Lucia.
“We are anticipating that the government makes a decision on how the Jazz Festival can be managed because it is really taking away a lot of resources, both financial and human, from the marketing that the SLTB needs to do.”
Asked whether the current budget is adequate, Francis responded saying, “I don’t want to say that it is enough or not enough. But in effect, the board has about $10 million to market Saint Lucia, when you take out the Jazz Festival, admin and other commitments that it has.”
She continued, “Ten million spread over the US, UK, Canada, Germany, the Caribbean and France, and when you convert that to these national currencies, it is really not a lot of resources. And with the role that tourism is expected to play in the national economy, we have to drive business and this is part of the reason why we think the allocation is not being spent properly…and of course if we have more we will do a lot more.”
However, Francis said having recognized the state of the economy and the need to maximize it’s resources, the board will be looking at new strategies to market Saint Lucia.
The Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival was once ranked among the top three festivals in the world.
The event rakes in millions of dollars each year in visitor expenditure that covers accommodation, transportation, meals and even handicraft sales, and at one time earned as much as $2 million dollars.
The first St. Lucia Jazz Festival was held in 1992 as an initiative to extend the tourist season and increase foreign exchange in Saint Lucia into May which had previously been a relatively quiet period.
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