By Stanford Conway
Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Dr. Denzil Douglas recently announced an eight-point development plan for tourism, which he described as the main driving force in the Federation’s economy.
This announcement was publicly made when the PM held his first conference for the year with members of the local media on Tuesday, February 14.
“The national assets that define the uniqueness of St. Kitts as a destination are our stunning natural beauty, our heritage, our culture, our reef and forest ecosystems, the genuine hospitality of the Kittitian people and the overall ambience of our island,” said Dr. Douglas.
The PM noted that those assets and other ongoing projects were poised to play greater importance in the national economy of the Federation.
He explained that the first of the eight-point plan was the promotion of the national assets to attract more upscale travellers to the Federation’s visitor mix.
“Research has shown that nature, culture and heritage add the perceived value to our destination, attracting a much more discerning and well-travelled visitor. We are being talked about all over the world in a very positive way,” said Dr. Douglas.
Noting the introduction of a wider variety of accommodation and attractions that appeal to the more sophisticated traveller as another point in the plan, Dr. Douglas said they would include luxury hotels and villas, world-class golf courses, marinas, spas and wellness centres, a thoroughbred racetrack, gourmet dining and high-end shopping.
He added that improvement to and upgrading of existing infrastructure to ensure the providence of a quality product across the full range of accommodation options were also part of the project.
“That is why our airport has to be expanded; that is why the West Basseterre Bypass Road has to be expanded; that is why our generating capacity at our Electricity Services Department has to be improved and increased. The infrastructure of this country must keep apace with the potential for expansion of our tourism plans in St. Kitts and Nevis,” said Douglas.
The PM noted his Administration would also expand training for front-line and other service providers, to ensure they have the tools to enhance the visitor experience and to provide a globally competitive service product.
Additionally, his Administration will maximise the nation’s status as a host nation for the ICC Cricket World Cup, in order to position St. Kitts in becoming a significant player in the world of sports tourism and events tourism in general.
“What a magnificent day it will be when the first cricket match is played here at our own darling Warner Park. Thousands of people…in fact, we already have requests for no less than about 1,100 rooms coming out of Canada alone; the Guyanese Indians in Canada have already been looking at1,100 rooms here for the Test Match between India and the West Indies, and this is only the beginning. This is not the World Cup,” said Douglas.
In furtherance to events tourism, the PM declared the changing of the name of the island’s annual world-renowned musical treat.
“Our own music festival is unmatched anywhere else in the world. We are now no longer the St. Kitts Music Festival, it is the St. Kitts International Music Festival. We have internationalised it and that is why we have been sought after as a destination for event tourism,” said Douglas.
He also announced the facilitation of economic empowerment of small and medium-size local enterprises and stated that the government would help to increase awareness within the communities of the opportunities that the tourism sector provides; adding that the nation’s youth would be the primary target.
From this backdrop, the PM said Cabinet had recently formally approved the Investment Promotion Stages and in a short while it would be made public within.
“It is going to be an agency that will do a number of things. It will be a one-stop facility for local and overseas investors and it is going to make the business of putting enterprises together to operate in a profitable way here in St. Kitts and Nevis much easier.
“Already we have had the offer from one of our corporate houses her in St. Kitts to facilitate the implementation of this programme by providing one of their own highly trained management staff in assisting those who are involved in small enterprises in getting their proposals off the ground and to begin their businesses,” said Douglas.
The PM added that the Chief Executive Officer of Cable and Wireless, Ms. Patricia Walters, had made available one of the company’s highly trained management team to assist the government in the establishment of the programme and he extended his gratitude to her for the timely and appreciative gesture.
Dr. Douglas said the remaining two of the eight-point plan involved giving full respect to the principles of sustainable tourism in the development project planning, and that the government would seek to improve its ability to track the source of tourism arrivals and the details of tourism expenditure, with the aim of assessing performance and impact of the sector on the government’s revenue and the national economy.
PM Douglas pointed out that the eight-point plan and other developmental projects that the government had already initiated would greatly assist the upward economic mobility of the Federation despite the many challenges.
Quoting a passage from the Holy Bible, PM Douglas spoke to the 450 years in which the children of Israel was oppressed under the Egyptians but later found solace in Moses’ leadership. He strongly emphasised that as Moses did so shall it be with him leading the nation into the “promised land”.