BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — As the government of St. Kitts and Nevis continues its careful and managed approach to opening up the nation’s borders to visitors, businesses engaged in the tourism and hospitality sectors are being encouraged to rethink the way they do business to tap into the local market.
The hospitality sector, which has essentially been closed since March 2020, is one of the industries impacted hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government continues to take the necessary steps toward restoring the hotel and hospitality sector back to a state of near normalcy during the last quarter of 2020, according to Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, during his appearance on Tuesday night’s edition of Leadership Matters.
“Our next big task is our hotel and hospitality sector,” said Dr. Harris. “Most persons are optimistic that in good time we will see the place opening up, especially our hotel sector. This is the most challenging since this calls for the opening up of our borders to larger and more regular influx of persons many of whom will be returning from areas which are coronavirus hotspots, meaning the likelihood that they will transmit the virus on arrival is greater.”
The significant relaxation in COVID-19 regulations in the country over time has allowed for citizens and residents to return to some semblance of normalcy with respect to their economic and social lives.
Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Harris is urging tourism dependent businesses, such as hotels, to begin to offer special services tailored specifically for locals.
“Whether it is catamarans, water sports or other facilities, there is a business opportunity,” said Dr. Harris. “Even our taxi people have to begin to look at the build out and new range of services. So, it’s not just taking people over to Frigate Bay. You could develop something competitive to take somebody from the terminal to the hospital, for example. Or take them to shop.
“These are the new areas people have to think about, how can we earn something in this winter season of the tourism product,” said Dr. Harris. “Think of winter in terms of the absence…or the hard difficult period of the tourism sector.
“Even as we begin to think about opening, hotels have to build in – and some have already, but perhaps it has to be better promoted – special programmes for families to come and to stay and to make the rates almost giveaway. You lose on the rooms, but you gain through the restaurants and other supports and you keep an activity there that draws other people to come. These are some things that are happening elsewhere.”
St. Kitts Tourism Authority Chief Executive Officer Ms. Racquel Brown noted the Ministry of Tourism met with stakeholders within the sector, particularly those engaged in water-based activities, and held discussions on introducing special rates for locals.
“They have local rates, but I’m sure they are going to look into revising them considering the extension of summer and us not having visitors come to the island internationally or regional,” Brown added.