The Tourism Enhancement Fund was established in October, 2013 in an effort to play an ‘integral part in the sustainable development of St Lucia’. Much has often been extolled about the merits of sustainable development and it is at the forefront of most tourism policy development in the region. In an industry often perceived to be driven by only a desire for profit, the St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association, along with other agencies, has helped to reframe long-standing perceptions and provide a framework for continued partnership with the community and the development of people over profit.
It is important to acknowledge that there are have been missteps in the development of the tourism industry. Globally, the industry has been criticized for green-house emissions and social dislocation. Locally, criticisms have surrounded the loss of cultural heritage, economic dependence and ecological degradation. Popular misconceptions of an industry built on servitude and a lack of advancement were some of the issues that the emergence towards sustainable tourism as a policy seeks to address. Sustainable tourism is defined as “tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment”. More importantly sustainable tourism has sought to equip citizens with the long-term skills necessary to professionally advance their careers and to provide their family economic security.
The Tourism Enhancement Fund bolstered the social conscience of the private sector by making a commitment to creating a viable and imperishable tourism product. The Fund has endeavored to not only advance projects that improve visitor experience of the island, but this year alone it committed $420,000 to Human Resource Development within the industry. Christmas time is synonymous with charity, the philanthropic exercises that provide some of the country’s most needy with some holiday cheer and blessings. Though these exercises are necessary and applauded, there must be an emphasis on building programmes that provide resources that would improve economic circumstances in the long-term and not just temporary holiday relief.
A 2007 article in The UK Guardian noted that sustainable development of tourism is the industry’s duty. Tourism and travel is the world’s leading industry; according to the World Travel & Tourism Council the industry is projected to account for 50.2% of St Lucia’s GDP by 2025; it currently accounts for 45.4% of our GDP in 2015. Directing our development efforts towards the tourism industry just statistically makes sense.
Through programmes targeted at human resource development, the Association has helped to not only provide jobs to young persons but also to raise the average income of families by helping talented and determined workers advance to higher positions in their company. A 2014 United Nations report on sustainable economic development in Small Island Developing States noted that “Sustained and inclusive economic growth must include the investment in human capital complemented by productive investment in the real economy to create employment opportunities . . . that are accessible for marginalized groups including women, youth, and local communities. Addressing youth unemployment could potentially help ease many social problems such as high levels of crime and violence in several countries.”
Sustainable development works because it responds to the present day needs of people and the society at large while bolstering future generations’ ability to meet their own needs. The tourism industry is here to stay and as it grows it will require a stronger and more diverse workforce. The tourism industry is responding to this country’s unemployment crisis by strengthening its tourism product and enabling employees to increase their earning power. The gift of sustainable tourism development benefits the entire community and provides to St Lucia a gift that can be enjoyed all year round.