by Marlon Madden
The new Minister of Tourism in St Lucia Dr Ernest Hilaire is depending heavily on travel from Barbados and other regional states to aid in that country’s tourism recovery as international travel continues to be impeded by the COVID-19 pandemic in key source markets.
Pointing out that St Lucia was promoting regional travel for the short to medium-term, he said officials in Castries were currently examining the possibility of reintroducing some annual events next year. He said discussions around those events were ongoing and there would be some “trial events” to see what would work.
“As we do so, the regional markets will be critical for that. We are looking at the possibility of carnival next year and some of our other events that we had we are looking at ensuring that we put them back on the calendar . . . and for that to be really successful we need the regional travel for sure,” he stressed.
He said that Caribbean destination was being very deliberate in promoting regional travel now “because it means a lot to us in terms of numbers, spend and the greater issue of our Caribbean identity. For St Lucia, regional tourism is very significant”. As such, Hilaire said he supported the planned reduction in taxes on regional travel.
“There are discussions ongoing at the regional level to reduce the level of taxation on regional travel. It is something I support and we will be definitely engaged in that dialogue because of the importance to us of regional travel,” he told a recent virtual Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) roundtable discussion.
Following a dramatic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted international travel for several months, CARICOM leaders agreed at their 42nd regular meeting in July to, among other things, consider proposals to reduce taxes on travel for an initial period of six months.
So far, Antigua and Barbuda has announced reduction in taxes for regional travel, while Barbados
has announced similar reduction of 50 per cent, but only on taxes for trips to the Spanish, French and Dutch Caribbean countries, the US Virgin Island, Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands.
During the CTO webinar, Minister of Tourism for Haiti Cassandra François pointed out that her country was hopeful of a tourism rebound, adding that she was already working with partners including the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, the America’s Cruise Tourism Task Force and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.
She pointed out that Haiti’s tourism industry continued to face one of its toughest periods yet, following the recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake that resulted in widespread devastation and more than 2,200 deaths and thousands more injured.
However, she said there was still very little that could be done to save the tourism industry in the short-term due to the continued political instability. Prior to the pandemic, Haiti would welcome close to 800,000 cruise passengers and more than 500,000 stay over visitors, said François. About 70 per cent of the country’s visitors come from the US.