Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — Responding to Thomas Cook collapse and immediate impact, Saint Lucia’s tourism minister Dominic Fedee, said, “Historically, we’ve never really had a heavy reliance on Thomas Cook for our airlift capacity, so, therefore, there is not much of an impact, this is a drop in the buck for Saint Lucia.”
Industry experts attribute Fedee’s intuition as a phantom expression not based on sensible knowledge of the travel industry, including his portfolio and that of his government policy.
Fedee’s comment was also examined in the light of utterances, September 17, 2019, in parliament stating, “Thomas Cook, Thompson and British Airways” had “indicted significant interest in advancing capacity”, following, Virgin Atlantic withdrawal from Saint Lucia, June 8, 2020 ‘for the foreseeable future’.
“In the coming weeks we will be making very specific announcements as it relates how their [individual] carriers will be expanding their capacity into Saint Lucia,” Fedee said, noting that, ”Based on the meetings we had, we estimate we will be seeing an extra 500 to 700 extra seats coming into Saint Lucia on a weekly basis. Suffice it to say that, I feel extremely vindicated and justified in the decision we made as it related to subsidies demanded by Virgin Atlantic.”
Fundamental to Fedee’s phantom expressions are questions surrounding “conscious attempts to mislead the nation about such an important industry,” rather than – bring the truth to light.
Nonetheless, where more sophisticated thought process can reason on this matter, president of the St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association Karolin Troubetzkoy, said:
“The departure of Virgin next June is a major blow to the tourism industry. We have lost over 40,000 room nights that Virgin Holidays and Thomas Cook sent to the Island. So, who is going to pick that up?
Troubetzkoy explained: “Thomas Cook is a very broad structured company. There are hotels they own; there are cruise ships they own; they have operations in Europe. Overall, the loss of so many airline seats out of one market (Great Britain) is a great concern. I hope we will come out with a position paper [tomorrow] that would hopefully ask that all our stakeholders public and private come to the table and have a serious discussion and a strategic review [of] what should be our next steps.”
Reference is rendered to the article, Virgin Atlantic – Thomas Cook illuminates the regions tourism variability amid policy triviality, submitted:
” Considering the ensuing interventions being pursued to mitigate the potential fallout from Virgin Atlantic – Thomas Cook; defending the credibility, viability, and policy to explore the most effective solution(s) is hardly the adventure of immature representation and frivolity, routinely dramatized by tourism minister Fedee.”
In contrast, celebrating World Tourism Day in Dominica, minister for tourism, Senator Robert Tonge, highlighted the importance of tourism as “one of the main engines responsible for thousands of jobs in Dominica.”
“Our industry is indeed one of the main engines of growth and an effective tool for poverty elevation and raising standards among people. This industry is what drives economic and social development in our country, linking with other key segments of the productive sectors in agriculture, food, and beverage, transportation, telecommunications, cultural entertainment and a host of other key activities,”
“There is no doubt that we are on the course of something special in our tourism as we witness an increase in the level of investment in the sector by both the public and private sector. Private sector investment led by the development under the Citizen by Investment (CBI) Programme has manifested its confidence in the sector by undertaking a wide range of amazingly impressive and high-quality projects.”
“We are investing in community-based tourism development and the transfer of scales to a large number of tourism workers. In the past few months alone, your government has invested large sums in training for tourism industry employees and we are hoping to soon establish a fully fletched tourism and hospitality institute to train this and future generations of tourism workers,” Tonge said.
Notable, considerable policy differences are emerging as tourism-dependent countries where markets are concentrated in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom are exposed to the immediate effect of global uncertainty, an economic slowdown in the US, Brexit, US-China trade war, inclusive of climate change immediate impact on the regions socio-economic realities.
China has experienced a remarkable period of high rates of growth over the past four decades. But the traditional drivers of growth are running out of steam. China is now at a crossroads, with declining returns to public investment and rapid aging. Developing new drivers of growth will require more efficient allocation of resources while reducing environmental impacts and continuously boosting productivity. Unlocking the new drivers will also require governance reforms to let market forces play a decisive role in allocating resources and a reorientation of China’s innovation system.
The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) mid-year update, 2019 reads: “Stronger than expected growth was driven primarily by higher levels of tourism-related activities.
“There was a downward revision to government’s fiscal performance for 2018. The estimate of the overall balance was downgraded to a deficit of 0.9 percent of GDP, from a reported surplus of 0.3 percent.”
Meanwhile, the tourism authority said that Saint Lucia recording not only the highest number of visitor arrival figures ever recorded for the month of July, but also, for anyone-month period in the island’s history. This surpasses the record set last March by 2.5 percent when 41,741 visitors stayed on the island.
That ‘sustained growth’ has not reduced poverty and inequality, helping to expand the middle class, and / or improve government fiscal position.
While the tourism industry is contributing the largest share of taxes, (if collected and not deferred as incentives to all-exclusive hotels) to GDP, foreign direct investment (FDI), and employment service mix, upwards of 75 percent of the work-force, efforts to diversify tourism and commodity sectors are essential for sustainable economic expansion, particularly since growth in tourism is anticipating more uncertainty in the coming months.
In a comment to the article, Virgin Atlantic – Thomas Cook illuminates the regions tourism variability amid policy triviality, Antonius R. Hippolyte wrote:
“It exposes our vulnerability and the fact that we are only a minute player in a global industry prone to external shocks, that we cannot necessarily counter. More than anything else the collapse of Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic’s discontinuation of its Saint Lucia service is evidence of the need to further diversify our economy to gradually become less dependent on tourism.
“For a start, let us aspire to build a thriving financial services sector in two to three decades which will rival, The Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, St Kitts and Nevis etc…,” (Economic data place Saint Lucia’s growth projection more compatible with Haiti.)