With a promise to offer up to the minute accountability on the less than two years old Tourism Enhancement Fund, the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association convened a press conference on Tuesday. The TEF was created to allow the SLHTA to become more integrally involved in the sustainable development of Saint Lucia. Launched in November of 2013, the fund is driven by donations from departing guests at some of the island’s hotels. US$2 per room night is charged to the guest’s bill, which represents a voluntary contribution on their part.Chaired by Dominic Fedee, the conference included by SLHTA president Karolin Troubetzkoy; fund chairman Sanovnik Destang and SLHTA executive vice president Noorani Azeez. Troubetzkoy said her association had persuaded the hotels to participate in something larger than their regular charity programs and also to help create the TEF.
The SLHTA president revealed that participating in the fund were well over 2,000 hotel rooms, about seventy percent of the island’s room stock. Several SLHTA allied members have expressed interest in the TEF.
“For me, what is also very inspiring is that this is a voluntary program,” Troubetzkoy said. “This means the hotels must encourage guest participation almost from the moment of arrival.”
The TEF has raised just over EC$2.5 million, some $1.2 million of which has been disbursed, said Destang . “We have made an impact in the community and the tourism product in a very meaningful way,”
Additionally: “We had to get to work quickly, getting involved in bringing relief to the communities of Anse LaRaye and Canaries in particular. This allowed us also to assist the Canaries Infant School to continue operating in a temporary location.”
The TEF has also embarked on ten after-school programs, at a cost of $70,000. The fund is now embarking on a major apprenticeship program.
Destang went on: “Right now in Saint Lucia we have over 20 percent unemployment and about 40 percent unemployment among the youth. At the same time, the hotels are saying they cannot get trained and qualified employees. So we decided to take the bull by the horns and initiate an apprenticeship program.”
The program is partly funded by the TEF with the sum of EC$400,000 and a matching contribution from the Ministry of Finance. So far, more than three hundred individuals have been placed in the two-month program that offers training in management, human resources, food & beverage and a number of soft skills. The names of successful students are placed in a data bank, which can be utilized by not only the hospitality sector but other private sector employers as well.
Noorani Azeez recommended a heavy focus on the SLHTA’s human resource initiatives. “This is will ensure that Saint Lucians avail themselves of the opportunities that are out there.” In the coming months the TEF intends to embark on a public awareness campaign that will include billboards at various ports, beginning with Hewannora Airport and the entrance to the town of Soufriere.”