THE Ministry of Tourism is asking locals to step in and aid in the fight against tourist harassment from beggars.
Tourism Officer with the Ministry of Tourism, Samantha Charles said with thousands of visitors coming to our shores on a yearly basis, it would be ideal to create an environment that warrants enjoyment and opportunities to explore the island.
Charles said: “What harassment does is it impedes those types of positive activities. It gives the impression that whilst we are a destination, our people are not aware of the importance of visitors coming to our island and obviously harassing them would trigger negativity”.
The Tourism Officer said in this case, technology is working against us as the days of writing letters of complaint are long gone and the use of mobile phones to document harassment is now common. This , she said , paints a negative picture of St. Lucia.
Charles said the matter was serious and one way to alleviate the problem would be to increase domestic efforts at awareness and to educate the public about the importance of tourism.
“Without tourism, we don’t have a leg to stand on. It is our most vital industry so increased efforts at awareness would put a dent in the situation. It may not curb it altogether but it may put a dent in that persons would really come to the realisation that we have a tourism industry which is fragile, we have to nurture it and put certain things in place to ensure its growth and sustainability. So we ought not to be engaged in those types of activities that leave visitors with a negative impressions of St. Lucia.
Charles said according to reports of the safety and security officer attached to the ministry, many complaints are received monthly. The complaints are made over a variety of crimes including robbery.
She said: “It is a very important concern,( this business of tourist harassment). Five or ten cases of this is too many”
Charles said this issue was one that the ministry realises and hopes that the public would do so too.
“We cannot afford to take this issue lightly. We cannot afford to engage in activities that would decrease our numbers of repeat visitors and we cannot afford to engage in activities that put us out there in a negative manner in the wider forum and we need to do all that we can to ensure that the industry continues to thrive.”
This issue she said is one that can make or break us.