THE number one industry on the island is a Cash Cow for those who already have, while the nationals wait for the crumbs to sustain themselves from it.
It starts with the head taxes and the environmental tax and the expected taxes that the state is supposed to benefit and profit from the hotel owners who have been given generous incentives to build on the island.
The cruise ship profits the most, because the disembarking passengers who do land-based tours have to pay a hefty mark-up on all the acknowledged tours, the tour agents fall next in line, then the suppliers and the sites that are controlled, either by the state, (such as the Sulphur Springs) or private enterprise (such as the botanical gardens), some eating establishments, a few private taxis — and last on the list is the occasional vendor.
The tourists who choose not to go on an organised tour try to browse through the city centre to possibly do a little souvenir buying, or go to the next best place — the Beach –and make sure that they are back on board the ship for their prepaid lunch.
The natives, struggle, beg, try to outsmart the visitors into buying some things, often being referred to as harassers, and they are usually told that ‘We have already purchased that item in the last island we visited’, or ‘It’s too expensive’, or they will only settle for a local beer.
The business only happens in selective areas because the island is supposedly unsafe and crime is rampant.
There are no established entertainment or eating outlets to sample our national dishes, or sample our coconut water or mangoes, no medical items or spices that are original, no brand-made clothing or art galleries that are reasonably priced.
In fact, the tourism authorities have not made the masses part of that industry. It is by luck and chance that we gain some profits, yet every season you hear how great a season we had.
The hotels encourage their guests to dine indoors, in fact the new trend and type of resorts are all-inclusive, competing with all other private tourism related investment. So the streets are empty, even in Rodney Bay and the restaurants are empty and the locals dine occasionally — and the struggle continues.
No body speaks out, nobody tells about the horrors of owning a business, or how hard it is to keep people employed. Yet you hear daily about new touristic ventures coming on steam.
Well, I must be blind or living in another country because tourism in this country is about those who have or are rubbing shoulders with the government.
The standard requirements are stringent, insurance policies are high, licenses are not easy to come by, and the mingle of tourist and locals only happens at Gros Islet on a Friday night, or maybe Anse la Raye or Marigot occasionally.
This industry needs to be revamped, revisited, and reorganised, for now it is not serving the needs of our people.
The people have to become more self-reliant, we have to grow in confidence, become creative, bold and adventurous, but that can only happen if the state changes their way of doing business.
We see the changes worldwide, we know how competitive this industry is, we pay huge salaries for those who mind the industry, yet our returns are minimal — and we live on in hope while we build new airports and seaports and talk about promoting a better life for our people.
It’s as if we accept that: C’est la vie!