By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter
” (Basseterre, St. Kitts) ” The Caribbean is flush with artisans creating unique products to sell. The tourists who visit the region are flush with dollars to buy those unique works. Now, there’s a plan to link those who create those goods and those who want to buy them, which, if successful, will give regional artisans a greater stake in the growing tourism-based economy. The Organization of American States wants to assist artisans within the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States to better market their goods within the tourism industry. The OAS has recognized that for Caribbean producers of handicrafts, furnishings, soaps, specialty foods, and many other hand-made products, the Caribbean tourist market could offer unlimited sales opportunities. “Despite this opportunity, Caribbean producers have been largely unable to capitalize on the economic growth created by the tourism industry. This has largely been so because of constraints in terms of limited information about resort purchasing practices, international consumer standards and by constraints on capital or assistance needed to carry out new product development, bulk purchasing, production expansion and marketing to a fragmented and globalized supply sector. In a press release, Mr. Starret Greene, OAS Representative in St. Kitts and Nevis, said the OAS, in collaboration with Aid to Artisans, is providing funding for a multinational project that will help local producers of handicrafts, furnishings, specialty foods and other hand-made products in St. Kitts and Nevis to capitalize on the economic growth created by the tourism industry. Aid to Artisans is a nonprofit organization that offers practical assistance to artisan groups worldwide, working in partnership to foster artistic traditions, cultural vitality, improved livelihoods and community well-being. Through collaboration in product development, business skills training and development of new markets, Aid to Artisans provides sustainable economic and social benefits for crafts people in an environmentally sensitive and culturally respectful manner. Some of the seminars that experts offer include topics such as buyer expectations and customer service, costing and pricing, exporting, product development, promotion and trend reports. Designed as a pilot, the Supporting Caribbean Enterprises project will help artisans better access the lucrative tourist market as an avenue of income and revenue. It will also assist local producers to position themselves to increase sales of their products to hotels and resorts on St. Kitts and Nevis, Mr. Green said. The local tourism market offered artisans unlimited sales opportunities, having regard to the annual influx of visitors to the Federation who are eager for locally-created and culturally linked products, Mr. Greene noted. “Because of this OAS funded project, local enterprises would be positioned to expand their businesses, through increase purchasing of their products,” Mr. Greene stated. SOURCE will establish successful models of partnership between a foundational group of 20 production businesses in Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada and 20 resorts throughout the Caribbean region. The program is designed for three years and will cost US $450,000. Karla Hostetler of Aid for Artisans visited the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis to meet with artisans to arrange for their participation in the multinational project. “The OAS believes that this is an area that needs attention,” Mr. Greene said in speaking of the project.