A local dive operator says she opposes the Government’s proposal to lift the ban on jet skis here, although her company could benefit from the change.
“I would personally gain from having jet skis here, no doubt. If I went and bought five or six jet skis, I could have people come in and use them all the time and I would make money,” Kay Wilson told I-Witness News last week.
But Wilson, the proprietor of Indigo Dive, St. Vincent, says she is against lifting the ban because it could have a detrimental impact on the country’s tourism product.
The Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture says that as a means of “diversifying the marine tourism product”, it is “considering the introduction of jet skis as a watersport activity and also to facilitate in the patrol of the waters throughout the destination”.
But Wilson noted that the Government has worked successfully with public relations companies internationally to promote the peace and quiet of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including as a “digital detox” destination.
She said lifting the ban on jet skis does not fit into that model.
And while there can be designated areas for jet skis, Wilson expressed concerns about enforcement.
She said there is “fundamental anger” among stakeholders of the marine tourism industry in that they have enjoyed a jet ski free environment and they don’t want to see the peace and quiet of the nation’s beaches shattered by jet ski purveyors.
“It is just that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines our visitors have become accustomed to [and] we have a reputation for peace and quiet.”
Fewer visitors will come to this country if the ban on jet skis is lifted, Wilson said.
Asked if she was concerned that lifting the ban will impact her business, Wilson said she could actually benefit.
“My biggest concern is that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we have challenges enforcing some of the basic rules and regulations that we are supposed to live by,” she said, and used seatbelts and crash helmets laws as examples.
“It is going to be very challenging for the coastguard or the police to enforce the rules and regulations that would need to be in place for operators and owners in St. Vincent.
“The other downside is, heaven forbid, that an accident were to happen. The PR and public outcry that would ensue internationally would have a detrimental effect on our tourism product,” Wilson said.
She said the country is yet to address the situation regarding crimes against yacht visitors.
“We need to protect our visitors. We need to ensure their safety,” she said as she expressed concerns that if the ban on jet skis is lifted the nation’s law enforcement agents could have yet another job to perform.
Wilson also raised questions about taxes, public liability insurance, licensing, policing, and record keeping for jet skis if the ban is lifted.
“These are all questions that need to be answered and need to be put in place before we start saying ‘and now we are going have jet skis’.”
But asked whether her concerns are premature, Wilson said:
“I think if you look on the comments that are currently on TripAdvisor (the world’s largest travel website), … the consensus seems to be that the Government has already made up its mind and the consultation that is happening in Bequia is a precursor to say, we’ve already made this decision, that is it not really a consultation, that is a heads up.
“That’s not my personal view, but that seems to be the consensus across the stakeholders,” Wilson further told I-Witness News.
Most persons commenting on TripAdvisor oppose lifting the ban on jet skis here.
Further, a petition has been started online against lifting the ban.
Wilson said a tourism stakeholder started the petition.
“To be honest, if she hadn’t started it, I probably would have,” Wilson told I-Witness News.