Below is a statement posted on popular Facebook group St. Lucians Aiming For Progress (SLAPS) by Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilus several hours ago today, Friday, November 13, 2015.
I am really disheartened by this back and forth with the vendors association.
On assuming office I placed a particular emphasis of increasing visitor arrivals and more so volumes in the cruise sector, because visitor expenditure there is more directly felt by our population as it goes directly into the hands of a greater cross section of people.
The purpose for bringing visitors here is for them to spend money. I made a well intentioned statement which was blown out of context by suggesting to the vendors association that they invest in goods and services that are unique to our island as a means of increasing visitor expenditure here. This would also enhance our local craft sector which my Ministry also promotes. In the end it would be a winning fomrmula for our country. For that well-intentioned advice i apologize.
I have not, do not, and will not deny that crime can have a negative impact on our country. I merely stated that when we make public comments which we all have a right to make, we need to do so carefully as these comments themselves can negatively impact visitor arrivals.
An example is the comparison of our country to that with the highest murder rate in the world. Should cruise officials decide to pull ships from this island, many Saint Lucians who’s livelihoods I have toiled for the past few years to protect will suffer. I would hate to see that happen. If this too is not understood I also profusely apologize. I will however continue to press on with my job and see to it that this sector grows, whether the sincerety of my approach is accepted or not.
On a more positive note, cruise numbers should surpass the 700K mark this year. Statistics show that the range of expenditure is about 70 USD. Do the math and tell me if it wouldn’t be better if we could raise the average expenditure to 110 USD per day on items and services that were all local?
My best wishes always