Saint Lucia
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Hilaire Underscores Resilience of Tourism Sector

Tourism Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire
Tourism Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire

Tourism Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire has underlined the significance of the hospitality sector’s socio-economic contribution to the country’s revenue. He said the resilience of the tourism industry has enabled employers and employees to sustain livelihoods, even in the face of natural hazards.

Speaking at a media briefing, Monday, he sought to dispel criticisms levelled against the sector, noting rather that it is a vital component in the process of nation building.

Highlighting the happenings in the aftermath of the passage of Tropical Storm Bret, last week, the tourism minister said although the sector lost a day due to the temporary closure of the island’s two airports they quickly bounced back the day after.

Hilaire noted that though Tropical Storm Bret damaged a significant portion of the agriculture industry, the tourism sector has again showed its resilience in the time of need. In comparison to the runnings in the hospitality sector, he added, farmers have to bear a different kind of struggle; taking into account that it takes nine months for a banana tree to grow and bear.

“So all the banana trees we lost, there will be no income for the next nine months and government has to come and help them to replant,” he told reporters.

“We had the same storm…and by Sunday visitors were arriving as per normal,” declared Hilaire.

Taking a dig into the Kaiso arena, he said, there is song that states “we’re building a destination and not a nation”.

To counter the point, the tourism minister contended: “The best destination is a nation. When you can build a nation, you can sell that anywhere as a destination.

“But you can’t say you’re not going to spend money on promoting the country because you need that money to spend elsewhere. But that’s what earns the money for the country in the first place.”

Hilaire said, government is bent on injecting more funds into the sector in a bid to get more locals to participate and take ownership of the hospitality industry.

He noted: “This government is putting so much resources in for Saint Lucians to own more of the tourism industry, because it is bringing in the money…forty percent of our GDP comes from tourism.”

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Bret, Minister for Infrastructure and Works Stephenson King reported it was an “easy passage” of the storm.

A day after the storm, he said, the ministry’s work crew were on the ground deployed to the eight zones within the country “to determinate the extent of damage caused by the storm”.

The minister said the northern region experienced mostly fallen trees, debris and not much flooding.

Whereas, on the east coast, in Dennery, there were reports of some storm surge, and similar patterns along the coast and down through Micoud and into Vieux Fort.

“We recorded some storm surge, but generally throughout the country there seem to be really minimal damage …which calls for some cleanup,” said King.

Along the west coast, there were fallen rocks, some mud slides and “it just generally indicates that the intensity of the tropical storm wasn’t that strong to cause any major damage to our infrastructure, loss of life or otherwise,” he explained.

On the east coast, there were reports of “blown off roofs”, particularly in the region of Castries South East and other areas along that coast.

King assured the public that work is being undertaken “and within the coming days we will be able to restore our roadways to normality and to continue to move on as normal.”

In addition, LUCELEC workers were on the ground to rectify reports of power outages at some locations and telecommunications service providers were getting their networks operational.