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Opposition dubs Tourism Minister Skerritt a failure

While the local authorities in charge of the sector are forecasting a season of tremendous possibilities, members of the opposition have been seeking to provide another side to the development of the industry.

Their focus however, has been on the poor management of the still fledging industry  which truly is only approximately 45 years old, in terms of being considered a serious economic pillar for the country, which once exclusively depended on agriculture, mainly sugar agriculture.

Under scrutiny is the current Minister of Tourism Richard Skerritt, and recent comments he made during the budget debate in the National Assembly. Some members of the opposition have described the government’s approach to the industry as one that is ad-hoc.

This lack of careful long term planning and strategizing, said the opposition, “is hurting the poor and middle class and will only lead to a worsening situation unless the electorate changes the government.”

The charge is being based, partly, on the weaker numbers in terms of revenues generated from the sector and the number of stay-over visitors.

When compared to sister countries/territories in the Eastern Caribbean, St. Kitts and Nevis is said to be under-performing, said the opposition. To support their case, reference has been made to tourism expenditure in 2012 which was $100 million lower than it was in 2006.

“This is an abysmal failure. The table below shows the comparative performance in tourism in the OECS.  St Kitts and Nevis ranks second to last in tourist expenditure in 2011 and 2012 (excluding Montserrat),” argued the opposition.

They claim that under the stewardship of Minister Skerritt, the industry has been dwindling as the following figures show: From a high of an average of 140, 000 stay over tourists in 2005/06 and expenditure of $327 million and $355.45 million respectively in 2005/06.  

They have quoted figures from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, ECCB, which they say, show St. Kitts and Nevis struggled to attract 105, 000 stay over tourists in 2012. Additionally in 2012 the country managed a mere $256.3 in tourism expenditure.

In his comments, Skerritt made the argument that when analyzing the value of the sector, the critical metric is tourist expenditure not arrival numbers. But the opposition has responded by stating that either way, St. Kitts and Nevis is failing. Because of this, said the united coalition of opposition parties, “people are suffering hardships from this failure of tourism strategy and policy.”

 

 

COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF TOURISM PERFORMANCE IN OECS

 

NO

 

COUNTRY

 

TOURIST   EPENDITURE EC$M 2011

 

 

 

2012

 

TOTAL   ARRIVAL

2012

 

STAYOVERS

 

2012

1

Anguilla

$301.70   M

$304.11   M

129,391

64,698

2

Antigua

$841.77   M

$861.30   M

842,693

246,   926

3

Dominica

$313.46   M

$307.17   M

354,189

74,144

4

Grenada

$315.34   M

$328.27   M

361,673

112,335

5

Montserrat

$14.01   M

$18.95   M

12,127

7,310

6

St.   Kitts & Nevis

$254.06   M

$256.39   M

635,426

104,240

7

St.   Lucia

$865.51   M

$910.65   M

931,222

306,801

8

St.   Vincent

$247.55   M

$254.20   M

199,840

74,364

Looking at the way forward, it is the view expressed by the opposition that there is need to grow the stay over arrivals significantly, if one is to avoid seeing our hotels recording less than 50 percent occupancy.  “No hotel can survive for long with half of its rooms empty.  That is why they have resorted to student accommodation which means that they are charging very subsidized rates to meet the students’ budget. They will also suffer higher wear and tear of their properties.”

The opposition is adamant that “The failure of this government to grow the stay over market which accounts for 95 percent of tourism receipts is the gravamen of the problem.” 

“Team Unity will produce a tourism master plan that will see stay over arrivals grow steadily. Our policy will encourage a diversified tourism product with scope for local people with their guest houses, apartments, etc. to share and benefit from the growth and prosperity which we will bring to the sector.  We will work in concert with our stakeholders to ensure shared prosperity and we will not accept mediocre tourism performance. We will develop stronger inter-sectorial linkages with tourism, manufacturing, crafts and culture and agriculture,” promised the opposition.

 

 

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