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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves addressing the opening of the Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development on Wednesday. (CMC photo)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves addressing the opening of the Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development on Wednesday. (CMC photo)

By Kenton X. Chance

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, Wednesday underscored the importance of the tourism industry to the socio-economic development of the nation and urged stakeholders to ensure its sustainability.

Addressing the opening of the Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC2019), Gonsalves said he was aware of nationals with an untoward attitude to tourism.

“We must have it as the Maroons said in Jamaica, when they were fighting the British, the quest must be a noise in your blood and an echo in your bones for every single Vincentian, everyone,” Gonsalves said.

The three-day conference, which is being held in collaboration with the St Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority (SVGTA), will allow industry experts to address the urgent need for a transformational, disruptive, and regenerative tourism product to meet the ever-rising challenges

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It is being held under the theme “Keeping the Right Balance: Tourism Development in an Era of Diversification” and Gonsalves told the ceremony he is also aware of people who still hanker for mass agriculture.

But he reminded the audience that the United States has 80% of its economy in services while the number of persons in the agricultural sector is declining.

“They produce a lot of food. The United States of America is the largest producer of food, but, as a proportion of the economy, in terms of employment, very small and of the economy overall,” Gonsalves said noting that in Britain, agriculture accounts for at least 2% of the economy.

He said SVG has to adopt a similar here SVG may well be “a local disruption by creating spaces and the kinds of income which could be earned for ordinary labourer would be higher than that if you growing sweet potatoes or yam.

“But we have yam to eat and sweet potatoes to consume and we can’t feed ourselves on ganja, though we can use the money to import, but we have to do our balance to have a sense of security of food.”

Gonsalves said he knows some people, including some in the media, who are of the opinion that “tourism is only for white people and when they come here, they walking ‘bout place and they staying in good hotels, they down at the beaches’ and all of these things”.

But he said he wanted to make it clear also that the beaches here are open to everyone and “only a minority, a tiny minority of persons who have not yet learnt the way to triumph over the disabilities and the limitations and the legacy of underdevelopment from native genocide and the enslavement of African bodies, is not to live in the past but to use our knowledge of the past to rise and rise triumphantly in our own interest and to utilise what we have in our environment…

“Its natural beauty, its beaches and the like to make a good living off of that where we are inviting people to come and enjoy that with us. And the overwhelming majority of people in this country share that perspective, but, often, the discordant few get the coverage…”

He said everyone with access to the internet is “some kind of warrior”

“But, invariably, they are warriors in New York, London, Toronto, Winnipeg and the like, quite enjoying the white people money and don’t want to come home. I know this is going to get headlines and I am going to be attacked for saying this, but I am saying that we cannot live in the past,” Gonsalves said.

“We have to triumph in the current period, that is to say, get a level of consciousness and understanding; not to forget the past but to internalise it and utilise it within our own interest and where we have to make relevant demands, including reparations for native genocide and African slavery, we make those demands, but not in a confrontational manner, but in a manner consistent with a partnership which is required of all of us on this small planet which we call earth.”

Gonsalves said when people visit the country they must know that they are coming to a place that is welcoming, warning however, that if the government does not reduce poverty and create jobs, there would be resentment, as is the case in parts of Italy because of some localised factors.

“And that is why me must make tourism a noise in our blood and an echo in our bone”.

Gonsalves said there were several challenges to sustainable tourism in the region, namely, climate change and its consequences; resource scarcity, including non-renewable energy; fresh water; aging population; growing economy and increase in the absolute numbers of the global poor; artificial intelligence; and the fact that the challenges cannot be dealt with unilateral or by nativist responses.

He said that Kingstown has lodged Sustainable Tourism Development within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are part and parcel of the island’s developmental thrust.

Gonsalves said his Unity Labour Party administration specifically incorporated the 17 SDGs into its manifesto for the 2015 general elections and this constituted part of the conversation with the electorate.

“And, of course, we are re-elected for a fourth term,” he said, adding that his government takes this as a specific mandate from the people, in addition to world leaders having signed on the SDGs.

The prime minister further said that in the National Economic And Social Development Plan 2013 to 2025, the section on tourism elaborated many of the ideas and principles of the SDGs in relation to tourism, although the document predated the SDGs by two years.

“This is not a matter that is a sideshow for us, this is part of the real act. Not part of a warm up act, it is Beyoncé and Rihanna preforming together,” Gonsalves said.

10 replies on “PM Gonsalves underscores importance of tourism industry”

  1. The Prime Minister says he has to reduce poverty in order to make the country more attractive to tourists. This is true. You can ask most tourists this yourself. The present government’s belief that poverty is unrelated to crime is a very losing philosophy. Those who say this are part of the terrible indoctrination that continues to support the negative condition our country is in. The main concern I have with the government in Saint Vincent and this includes to some extent the former government, is that they also see no correlation between taxes and investment incentives. These kinds of governments do not want us to look at Singapore, and when we do they try to distract us by focusing on the few negative things about Singapore that probably have little to do with why Singapore, having more challenges than Saint Vincent, still maintains being per capita the wealthiest nation on earth. Singapore even has to import its drinking water.
    Like Saint Vincent, Singapore is an island nation amongst other island nations formerly under British rule. They were FAR BEHIND Saint Vincent in the 1960s and now they are far ahead of us.
    The Prime Minister would be interested in knowing that THE LEADER OF SINGAPORE IS THE HIGHEST PAID LEADER ON EARTH! The difference between that nation and most others is that that leader deserves his pay.
    Singapore also has the best Social Services on earth! Strange for an anti-socialist country!

    Lee Quan Yew embarked on an economic system strong into SUPPLY-SIDE ECONOMICS, like what the USA originally used to become very wealthy. Saint Vincent does the opposite. It uses primarily Keynesian Economics that is a form of the Socialism/ Fascism economics that has never worked anywhere but allows those that govern to have a good life and never make sacrifices. Even the Socialist Professor Cornel West of Harvard says Socialism has never worked.
    When I say “fascism” I mean the original definition of that economic system that has NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE, SKIN COLOR OR RELIGION. The founder of fascism was a socialist his entire life. All of the most famous fascist leaders in the world have been socialists, to include the nazi National Socialist Party leader, Adolph Hitler.
    If Saint Vincent is ever going to go anywhere we have to adopt a system, strong in Supply-Side that fits our country, not Barbados or some other place that has different prerequisites. We should have continued with Agriculture until we were able to build strength in other sectors. The EXTREMELY HIGH Customs charges along with the very idiotic Customs bureaucracy is a main reason that insures that Saint Vincent will always be a poor country.

    I suggest we adopt policy that makes prosperity inevitable and poverty impossible. That will take many changes and has to start with the government…our leaders…. instead we are doing the opposite. If the government wants the country to gain far more wealth they should start to open thier eyes and see where we are, what we have for assets and liabilities and then use thier brains.

  2. We know you like tourism comrade, didn’t you and your cousin destroy agriculture to make way for it.

  3. The USA is NOT the world’s largest food producer! It is third behind China and India . However, the USA is the largest exporter. Get it right Mr. Prime Minister !

    1. Fitz…Just starting last year Russia has also entered the arena. The USA Sanctions have backfired! Russia is now the largest wheat producer and rising fast in so many other agricultural sectors. Russia, China and India are undeniably ahead of the USA in quality. The USA has dropped way down the list when it comes to quality. That is why they are in decline.
      SVG is a big loser in Agriculture because of our Financial Policy of high taxes and duties. It makes it too expensive to farm and usually no one wants to pay such high prices when they can buy cheaper elsewhere.

  4. SVG went down the drain when the Gonsalves government allowed black sigatoka to destroy our banana industry. Instead of crop spraying at the proper intervals they went for months between spraying and did not have the product because they failed to pay the supplier for past deliveries.

    Just like how the medical suppliers stopped supplying SVG because they had not been paid.

    Then they lie about both matters, blaming others.

    1. It is true that the government was asleep when Black Sigatoka first was discovered here, but once here, the destruction was inevitable. We should not be growing those affected banana varieties at all anymore. Why would we want to grow crops that require vast amounts of poison?
      Our attitude when faced with problems, is to ignore them until it becomes really bad. The main reason why SVG is in most ways a failed state is because of our attitude toward problems and challenges. Look at our PM and his economic methods! In general, most of the time his government is just not up to the challenge.

      It is unfortunate that our PM only applies himself when it involves something that makes him look good or gets him votes. His very terrible socialist economics, on the surface makes it look as if he cares but instead destroys incentives and causes the poor masses to become lazy, stupid and dependent on government. His policy serves essentially only the few at the top. At the expense of Prosperity, Security, Justice and generally, the pursuit of happiness.

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