PRESS RELEASE – Saint Lucia’s tourism product is about to get even more unique as the Government begins to roll out plans for the establishment of a new entity to manage the island’s festivals!
At a press conference on Friday at the Prime Minister’s Office key stakeholders in culture and tourism spoke about the exciting plans ahead for the new entity and a summer music festival which will incorporate a Jazz week in May which is a reconfiguration of the annual Saint Lucia Jazz Festival.
Speaking at the press conference on Friday morning Minister for Local Government and Culture Senator Honourable Fortuna Belrose spoke about the bold step that Government was taking to be more creative and position Saint Lucia to be more attractive and competitive.
“Our citizens have not been able to effectively capitalize on the economic potential of our unique and diverse culture,” stated Senator Belrose. “This is so because of the disconnect that exists across sectors and the absence of effective systems for linkages in all of these sectors. We believe that greater effectiveness in the deliveries of our Creative Industries can help us realize this. Government has therefore agreed to establish an entity that will concentrate on the production and management of national events and festivals.”
The objective here is to brand St Lucia as destination of events and festivals linking it directly to our tourism product so that we can optimize the contribution of festivals to national and community development and to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the production of these events and festivals.
“We anticipate that this new approach will create some tension but it will assist us in connecting with the critical sectors as our national events will not be regarded as standalone activities but as part of a package. The events we speak about are our music festival which will be held over the summer. We also have our carnival, food and rum, Creole Heritage festival and sailing regatta. Initially we will focus on about five projects.”
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Tourism, Information and Broadcasting Honourable Dominic Fedee, started by allaying fears regarding the changes to the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival: “What we are doing is reconfiguring how we approach the festival. It will have a new name and that new name will in no way dilute the festival or the impact it will have on the small hotel sector, the entertainment or events management sector and all the other ancillary sectors that depend on what we know as the St Lucia Jazz Festival. The reality is the time has come for change.”
The Minister spoke of the budget shortfalls of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, which manages the Jazz Festival, on which $14 million was spent to execute in May of this year. He noted that out of budget of $34 million, nine million was also spent on administration and three million was going to airline support.
“That is a total of $26 million,” he told the media. “We only had eight million going toward core marketing. That to us was not a strategic way of spending the finances of the Tourist Board and we felt that we needed to hasten the pace at which the festivals commission was being implemented to assume the responsibility for the events management component of what you know as the Jazz Festival. The changes are going to allow us to have a developmental component to music, the arts and culture. It will give our destination that missing element of soul, flavour, heartbeat, which will make us more attractive.”
The Minister went on: “We have missed the mark over the years in articulating and properly defining the strength and value of our culture so I am very excited for the tourism industry because now we have another dimension that is being developed and articulated and we as a government will ensure that we bring to the front burner. We have to change the way we do things. We will now have a season of festivals which we will be launching and that will include a week of Jazz, to be named properly.”
“It will also include Carnival, Creole Heritage Month and other exciting initiatives which we will tell you about in more detail. What this does from a tourism point of view is it allows the small hotel sector which has struggled historically in the summer months. We should not accept that there ought to be a low season and a high season; all months are important. People have bills to pay whether it’s the high season or the low season. So we have to look at the summer more strategically.”
The Minister said that by reducing spend on Saint Lucia Jazz the Government can invest in other local events.
“The Festivals Commission gives us a chance as a country to correct a lot of the wrongs that have occurred with the Jazz Festival. We just could not continue. Things were not right and we had to change it,” said Minister Fedee.
Executive Chair of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board Ms. Agnes Francis confirmed to all that there will be Jazz in May. Said Ms. Francis: “We will have a week of Jazz from Sunday 6th May until 14th May 2017.
It will culminate at Pigeon Island on Sunday 14 May, also Mothers’ Day. It will be a more quality Jazz event with greater Saint Lucian and Caribbean content. The line-up has been finalized at a very reasonable cost and will be announced very soon. Pigeon Island as a main venue for weekend concerts continues and other venues will be used to decentralize the impact of the jazz event.
There will be four community events in the various parts of the country and there will be a fund to support other community initiatives. As we speak we have a creative agency working on branding for this summer festival. This gives us the opportunity to target specific niches, jazz enthusiasts, Reggae enthusiasts, people who love Calypso and Soca, R&B, food and rum. It gives us a lot more to market and position Saint Lucia as unique and special.
I am very excited. The Jazz Festival has now been copied by almost every destination in the Caribbean. So while we will not lose the equity we have generated from the Jazz festival over the last 25 years we now have more to talk about and the economic impact will be greater.”
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture Mr. Donovan Williams also spoke at the press conference along with Chief Executive Officer of the St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association Mr. Noorani Azeez.