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The 8th summit of CELAC takes places on Friday, March 1, at Sandals Resort at Buccament Bay, a section of which is seen here on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.
The 8th summit of CELAC takes places on Friday, March 1, at Sandals Resort at Buccament Bay, a section of which is seen here on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.
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Accommodation remains a challenge even as St. Vincent and the Grenadines is just one week away from hosting the Eighth Summit of the Community of States of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC) next Friday.

The government is finding it hard to locate rooms for the 400 people who are expected to travel to the country, even as Sandals Beaches Resort at Buccament Bay will host the event ahead of its March 27 official opening. 

“… we are very much into the last phases of preparation for this big event. It is a big event, it will be the biggest event in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Douglas Slater, the national coordinator for CELAC in Kingstown, told the state-media entity, the Agency for Public Information. 

“And in fact, one of the biggest meetings in CARICOM,” said Slater, who is a former minister of health in the Ralph Gonsalves government and an assistant secretary general of CARICOM.

Slater said guests will begin arriving on Wednesday but the government has some challenges with accommodation but is not deterred by them. 

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“We have been working very closely with the Sandals group,” Slater said of the resort which opens officially on March 27, but will host the March 1 summit.

“But all other hotels will be involved because … accommodation is a challenge. Even Sandals being a new big hotel would not be able to accommodate everybody. We expect that close to 400 people coming,” he said, noting that there will be 32 delegations, in addition to SVG’s.

“Some of these delegations when they travel, because of various reasons, they bring big contingencies, big delegations. The official delegation numbers at the summit will be around 175 or so — close to 200. But Sandals would not be able to accommodate the utmost beyond that, but the other hotels have been engaged.”

Sandals Beaches Resort at Buccament Bay will have 301 rooms, but it is not clear if they will all be available for the summit, which takes place 26 days before the resort officially opens. 

Douglas Slater
Douglas Slater, the national coordinator for CELAC in Kingstown speaking to the API.

Slater said the government has a preparatory committee of various ministries looking into all the aspects of the summit. 

“And despite the challenge, we have been making some good progress. So, as you would expect with so many people in St. Vincent at not one time, it will have the positive spin off. It’s an economic activity, our hotels will be getting more business and transportation sector, car rentals, taxis etc. So those are some of the benefits that you can easily see coming out of the CELAC.”

Slater said every Vincentian should be proud of SVG’s pro tempore presidency of CELAC.

“And I hope when I say that, every Vincentian, we should break every barrier, starting with political barriers,” Slater said, adding that SVG is a healthy active democracy. 

“It’s competitive. But there are things that we shouldn’t compete. This is national and everybody should support this. Because when people come in, people don’t know who is opposition. And I hope that our opposition will actually encourage their supporters to get aware of what is happening, at least.”

Slater, however, said he could not say that the opposition has “a leading role, but they’re part of government. 

“And to that extent, I know, it has been discussed in the Parliament. So, we expect them to give some tacit support to the whole thing, because, as I said before, the summit being here, we will be generating economic activity. 

“And I’m certain that persons who don’t necessarily support this administration would benefit directly or indirectly … and even religious groups and NGOs, you want everybody to be involved.”

He said the summit is “a big event in a small country but size, in this case, really doesn’t matter much. We have the capacity, we have the leadership, we have the will and we are going to put on a very successful event. 

“And we want that success to be felt by every single Vincentian. In order to do that, we want you to be firstly aware, but also do what you can to ensure — take some simple things like public cleanliness. … when you have guests at your home, you do your little extra cleaning up and make sure that people don’t have a bad experience. 

“And that cannot be the responsibility of the state alone… And we hope if you have an opportunity — and I hope that a lot of you do — of interacting with some of the visitors that you will give them a pleasant welcome so that set one of the legacies will be they want to come back to spend a holiday here. Because you know they come to work, and you must let them feel like they want to come back to this little SVG.”