Having seen the theme for the Saint Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association’s (SLHTA) upcoming annual general meeting – People, Passion, Purpose and Linkages; The Pathway to a Resilient Future, I couldn’t help but wonder if it might not be more aptly titled Of Linkages and Silos as I ponder the lament of Saint Lucia’s non-accommodation or Allied Sector.
This Allied Sector is comprised of the ancillary offerings of tourism such as tour operators, craft vendors and other similar providers of local visitor experiences.
This AGM may be one of the most important in the SLHTA’s history as for the first time so many allied members are openly voicing their concerns. Concerns that all is not right in Saint Lucia’s tourism industry when the allied sector finds itself restricted in its access to clients it has directly caused to visit the island, and the concomitant impact of this restriction on our bottom lines.
And it appears an open secret that this grievance is but the proverbial tip of a festering iceberg.
The pushback within some segments of the accommodation sector and even from the government, is that the accommodation sector has invested heavily and must therefore get a return on its investment. So I got to thinking about this and invite you to join me on a thought exercise that takes this argument to its logical conclusion:
The traditional model of infrastructural investment in the Caribbean’s hospitality industry has seen resorts established under a system that grants them generous tax holidays. As a consequence of these arrangements many resorts pay no corporate tax. However they remit occupancy as well as food and beverage taxes to government to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally they provide employment to a large sector of the population – both matters of great importance to government. However despite these millions flowing into government’s coffers, albeit directly from vacationers and not resorts, government continues to operate at a fiscal deficit.
Against this backdrop some resorts contend that they are entitled to the non-accommodation related business by virtue of controlling accommodation, and further that this is their right since they are private legal entities. Now while this argument is generally reject by the average allied member, let us for this discussion concede this position to the resorts that espouse it.
But in accepting their argument we MUST of necessity follow it to its logical conclusion as follows:
1. Resorts enjoy tax holidays and so pay no corporate taxes
2. Resorts own their properties and as a consequence can determine who has access and for how long, inter alia
With this being the case we must note that Saint Lucia’s infrastructure is built and maintained via taxes, which incidentally we as Saint Lucians are obligated by law to pay. So by extension of resorts’ argument we the owners of the island’s infrastructure could similarly choose to restrict said resorts from accessing our infrastructure by borrowing a page from their logic book. This however, begs the question as to what would then happen to the visitor as he or she could loose access to our roads en route to their resort … and my oh my – what a slippery slope this becomes.
It is with much anticipation I look forward to the upcoming AGM, encouraged in the awakened voice of the allied sector as we ponder Of Linkages & Silos
In next week’s concluding article I will present some possible solutions. Till then I invite you to also consider possible solutions as I am confident that as a collective we can easily solve this vexing conundrum.
Best Known for Photography, Kirk Elliott’s analytical thinking is borne of a Chemistry & Geology Bachelor of Science degree from the University of the West Indies, Mona Jamaica that taught him to take issues to their logical conclusion. Elliott has a deep interest in Tourism for Social and Economic Development in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as Saint Lucia in keeping with the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of which Saint Lucia is a signatory – particularly SDG #1, #8 #10 & #13.