Preliminary estimates show that visitors spent EC$500 million in St. Vincent and the Grenadines last year, Minister of Tourism Carlos James said in his State of the Tourism Industry Address.
The address came two weeks after the minister and some of his other colleagues failed to debate the EC$1.6 billion budget that Parliament approved this year, after a premature end to the debate.
“Very often we are critical of our tourism product, the hard-working stakeholders and staff within the various ministries and statutory bodies. But numbers tell a different story,” James said during the speech in Kingstown on Tuesday.
“For the very first time in our economy, preliminary estimates are showing that our total visitor expenditure for 2023 will surpass half a billion Eastern Caribbean dollars. This has never been reached in the history of tourism and St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” James said.
The minister said the achievement has been recorded without a major hotel chain operating in the country.
He mentioned Sandals and Holiday Inn Express, both of which are expected to begin operating in St. Vincent this year, with Sandals slated to open in March.
“And I want to give credit to the hard work of all of the stakeholders, our traditional hoteliers, taxi operators, marine operators, cruise agents, the Tourism Authority, and the Ministry of Tourism for their hard work in attaining these numbers…”
James said that coupled with other expected hotel projects and increased airlift, the outlook for the tourism industry in SVG is “buoyant.
“We promised to deliver over 1,000 jobs to Vincentians and we’re doing that with the opening of Sandals this year.
“We have done that by signing agreements with MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean and more hotels which will open very soon.”
James said the projections are that total arrivals in 2024 will surpass 2019 — pre-pandemic — levels by 77.1%.
“The country also stands to benefit from the hosting of ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, a rebranded Vincymas, and the introduction of SVG’ very first music festival and other events for 2024,” James said.
SVG will no longer be marketed under the slogan ‘Discover St. Vincent and the Grenadines”. The new mantra is “Experience St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
James is also minister of civil aviation, sustainable development and culture.
He asked his staff for patience, saying, “Let us go through that restructuring process in the various ministries and departments that are under my portfolio, be patient with me about it.
“Because what I want to see are the best available minds working in tourism. It deserves that attention. It deserves quality staff. It deserves quality product offering. It deserves better improvements to sites and it deserves an improved cultural landscape where we can celebrate our talents, or fashion or creativity and our food, which is our gastronomy.”
He said SVG “is the Caribbean everyone is talking about at this moment.
“And we are to take advantage of this opportunity, intensify our marketing and collaborate even greater to ensure that we see a lot more results that are positive. I’m happy to announce that 2023 We’re now clearly out of our recovery mode. And we’re ready to do business. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Caribbean you’re looking for,” he said.