In her New Year’s address to members on Wednesday 13th January the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA) President Karolin Troubetzkoy raised a number of issues including the IMPACS report and CIP. Without going into detail on these two issues the SLHTA president pointed out, “I hope that the country’s reputation and integrity can be safeguarded and that civil society will be able to partake in this process.”
The address also touched on the US Supreme Court ruling last year making it legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry. “It is my sincere hope for 2016 that our LGBT community in Saint Lucia, and in the region as a whole, can live more openly without fear of discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association,” Troubetzkoy stated.
The SLHTA president also called for more responsible reporting by the local media. She expressed the hope that the local press would spend more time this year checking the accuracy of their news stories before publishing them, expressing the wish that going forward, “the local press would be more sensitive to the damage which “irresponsible reporting” can do.”
On Wednesday the SLHTA invited the local media to a press conference to clarify and expound on, in some instances, the New Year’s message. The media also took the opportunity to quiz the head table on the SLHTA’s plans for 2016. The head table comprised Chief Executive Officer (SLHTA) Mr. Noorani Azeez, First Vice-President Mr. Sanovnik Destang and President Mrs. Karolin Troubetzkoy.
On the issue of the media the SLHTA president said it is not her place to tell the media how to do its job and that she respects the upholding of freedom of the press and freedom of expression. “But equally there has to be some sort of standard and professionalism as well as a responsibility on the part of the media to fact check and ensure that whatever it puts out there is accurate,” Troubetzkoy noted.
On the question of LGBT rights as it relates to tourism the SLHTA president said that the time has come to initiate discussion on the subject as the island may be losing out on a niche market with spending power. “With the legalization of same sex marriage in the US the time has come for the issue to be discussed on a national level,” Troubetzkoy stated. “As a citizen of Saint Lucia and also the president of SLHTA I think the time has come for us to really start the conversation, even if it may be uncomfortable for some, and provide an equal opportunity space for our LGBT community and also at some point tackle the law itself. It is a discussion that needs to take place,” she declared. According to the SLHTA, tour operators and property owners have been making such requests so that they can tap into potential visitors from the LGBT community.
The SLHTA also disclosed on Wednesday that crime continues to be an issue for members and, as such, it has contributed EC$152,000 to ensure that special patrol constables remain on the national payroll to offer additional security for visitors and citizens alike.
Incoming president Sanovnik Destang emphasized his commitment in ensuring the deepening of linkages between tourism and other sectors particularly agriculture. The SLHTA has proclaimed 2016 the year of the environment in Saint Lucia. Throughout the year the organization will impress on its members the need to conserve the island’s fragile eco-system for the long-term benefit of the industry and destination as a whole.