The Saint Lucia Tourist Board is now entering a period of significant transition. Minister for Tourism Honourable Dominic Fedee on Tuesday, November 8, 2016 spoke at length in Parliament to explain why Government was compelled to make some pivotal moves to restore the viability of the island’s main economic driver and foreign exchange earner – Tourism.
He said the Government of Saint Lucia aims to achieve greater results from the tourism sector in the areas of visitor arrivals, cruise tourism and yachting.
The Minister told the House of Parliament that the emerging statistics on visitor arrivals for the island along with a diagnosis of the financial standing of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board both present dismal findings.
Minister Fedee surmised that some of the responsibility can be apportioned to a lack of clear direction. “There seems to have been a focus on the Land Based Tourism Sector and there wasn’t any clear mandate to promote the island as the destination of choice that it should be for cruise passengers.”
The Tourism Minister added that: “Cruise passenger arrivals year to date to Saint Lucia records a 19.6 percent decline.”
Minister Fedee said it is very concerning that the Board fell below its target figures in several key areas, including the UK and Canada markets, cruise and visitor arrivals.
“We also found our main entity to market our destination the Saint Lucia Tourist Board in a very bad financial state. In fact, the financial statements are showing that the Board started the financial year at 2016 – 2017 with payables from 2015 to 2016 of over six million dollars. So while the Board had to contend with dwindling budgets because of policy decisions made by the previous dispensation, we saw that they were starting flat-footed with a debt of six million dollars.”
The 2016/2017 budget of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board the Minister disclosed appears to have been almost exhausted by September. “With a budget of 34 million dollars for the financial year 2016/17 the Board had already spent 26 million dollars by the end of September and so of the remaining 8 million, 4.8 million dollars was allocated for administrative expenses and 3 million dollars was committed to contracts to UK airlines to operate as marketing, creative and public relations agencies. No allocation was made in the Budget to cover the payables which continue to be of much concern to the functionality of the Board. Eleven million dollars was allocated to the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival and in actual expenditure was in excess of 14 million dollars.”
“This represents gross mismanagement and did impede the Board from carrying out its main function of marketing Saint Lucia as effectively as it should.”
Under the circumstances he announced that the Government will take the bull by the horns and usher in a period of transition and transparency to address the perilous state of affairs at the Saint Lucia Tourist Board. The Minister said the time has come for change and the industry has begun to take steps to rescue the island’s mainstay from suffering further losses. Minister Fedee said when the financial audit of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board is completed; he will report on the findings and make the results public.