In almost every society across the globe, there continues to be a clarion call for inclusive growth. By definition, inclusive growth is economic growth that is distributed fairly across society and creates opportunities for all. This fundamental principle, many argue, should be the pillar on which any decent society is built.

For many people, inclusive growth leads to a fairer society in which everyone feels that benefits derived from the economy affect their social standing in a positive way. In Saint Lucia, the same is true as many people expect that the benefits of the tourism sector should serve to create a better society, including an improved standard of living for all.

From the very beginning, the tourism sector has played a major role in the national development of Saint Lucia and the betterment of Saint Lucians. Through the creation of jobs and opportunities, many people have been able to form careers in the sector. In fact, our history is replete with team members starting out in entry level positions and rising through the ranks to senior management after years of dedication, hard work and passion.

As people and organizations across the world observe World Tourism Day on Monday, September 27, the Saint Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association (SLHTA) pauses to reflect and highlight the major contribution our sector continues to make to national development. With nearly 15,000 team members employed directly in the local tourism sector, and an estimated 55,000 people employed indirectly, the tourism sector undoubtedly continues to be
the main driver of our Saint Lucian economy. Tourism is now the island’s biggest industry and main source of employment, income and foreign exchange, accounting for 65% of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Due to its multi-faceted nature, the tourism sector has been able to create many linkages with other sectors. For instance, many farmers have been able to sell their produce directly to hotels and other properties, thereby reducing the national food import bill. For many of these farmers, having a ready market for their produce eliminates the hassle of finding one.

In terms of the dollar figure, Saint Lucia’s internal travel and tourism consumption has been steadily increasing over the past decade. Whereas the island generated almost US$771 million from internal tourism consumption in 2010, this industry amounted to about US$1.129 billion nearly 10 years later.

This level of contribution to the growth of the local economy cannot be ignored, especially as globalization – and now COVID-19 – have caused drastic declines in the agricultural, manufacturing and construction sectors. However, due to the linkages that tourism shares with these sectors, they remain viable.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the SLHTA, through its Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), has been consistently finding new ways to ameliorate the hardships faced by not only those directly linked to its sector, but also the wider community. As such, we have since made contributions to hospitals, the police force, charitable organizations, and more.

The TEF is a private sector initiative established in October 2013, designed to allow the tourism industry a greater opportunity to play an integral role in the sustainable development of our destination. The TEF is financed by a small, voluntary donation from our guests of US$2 per night, and goes towards community development and environmental projects which will affect the livelihoods of our current and future generations.

By collecting a small voluntary fee from our visitors, the SLHTA is also able to support projects specific to ensuring that our island is clean and safe for visitors and residents alike, including the beautification of specific areas of our island.
Over the past 21 months alone, the SLHTA’s TEF has been instrumental in providing assistance in many ways, including the following:

  • Providing assistance to displaced employees within the hospitality industry
  • Donating meals to the frontline workers for the transition from Victoria Hospital to the Owen King EU (OKEU) Hospital.
  • Assisting in the National Meals Programme through which 19,000 meals were prepared and distributed to communities, island-wide.
  • Donating school supplies to the Alexander Family Foundation for students in various impoverished communities on island.
  • Donating bicycles to the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) to widen its Bike Patrol programme.
  • Donating to Recover Saint Lucia. Some of these finances were specifically earmarked for the provision of food vouchers to 500 families, including vendors, entertainers, and the Rastafarian community.
  • Providing food vouchers to over 400 displaced industry employees over the Christmas season.
  • Providing tablets and care packages to assist families from the hospitality sector.
  • Partnering with a family project which provides financial assistance to families in the form of a monthly stipend for a period of 5 months.
  • Providing support for children with special needs in the form of disposable diapers.
  • Providing the Paediatric Ward at the OKEU Hospital with much-needed medical equipment and the Respiratory Hospital with an industrial laundry washer.
  • Starting the Eileen Paul Scholarship which will target the children of hospitality workers.

By these actions, we at the SLHTA affirm our belief that the benefits of tourism must impact the collective society. These initiatives represent a mere fraction of our efforts at bringing relief to beneficiaries, and we remain committed to widening our support for the community.

This year’s theme for World Tourism Day – “Tourism for Inclusive Growth” is apt, particularly as the SLHTA continues to broaden its scope of support for both its team members and wider society. This year’s theme is nothing new to us, however, as we have always maintained that the benefits derived from the sector must be shared. The SLHTA is
especially proud that despite the pandemic significantly affecting our sector, we are able to bring a wider basket of assistance to those affected in our community.

As we observe World Tourism Day this year, we pause to applaud our thousands of team members who continue to be the number one reason our sector continues to make a difference. We also thank our many stakeholders with whom we have forged invaluable relationships. As we navigate our way out of this pandemic, we do so with a great degree of
optimism and acknowledgement that any growth within the sector must be shared far and wide.

Happy World Tourism Day!