Chastanet’s private sector plea in St. Lucia

CASTRIES, St. Lucia – Tourism is everybody’s business but business has a special obligation to get deeply involved in the main business of the region, said a Caribbean pioneer of sustainable tourism.

As the island nation of St. Lucia prepares to host a major media meeting on sustainable tourism, President of the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA) Allen Chastanet urged more active participation from the island’s private sector – not just hoteliers – as tourism gets ready to take off.

“There are people who are quick to blame governments for a lot of things, and I think in our case the private sector has to take a lot of blame for their failure to participate actively,” said Chastanet whose island nation will host the five year anniversary of the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx), attracting some of the region’s leading tourism officials and media representatives from October 12-16, 2006.

Allen Chastanet

Chastanet, one of the early CMEx visionaries and founders, said the regional exchange is really about education and St. Lucia represented a classic case study of a destination that has done well in tourism, and is now set to make a quantum leap. “A lot has changed since CMEx was last held here in June 2004. We have had registered some success in the use of the ‘village tourism’ as a key concept, and we have come a long way in our discussions with the Ministry of Tourism in terms of attracting more private sector participation and collaboration … I think we are getting there but need to intensify our efforts as tourism in St. Lucia is about to take off,” he added.

St. Lucia is in the process of adding close to 3,200 new hotel rooms some of which opened up earlier this year, while others are nearing completion and are expected to be ready in time for Cricket World Cup in early 2007. “We will probably see a doubling of the room capacity in St. Lucia in the next four years and with this will come a dramatic change in the dynamics of the industry,” Chastanet pointed out.

The former Air Jamaica executive added that what was required was a more active role by the private sector in the development of the industry, adding that it was important that all hoteliers, bankers, agricultural suppliers, and other sectors be a part of the sustainable tourism dialogue. “The role of CMEx has been to make them more substantially aware of their role and more importantly the opportunities that tourism brings to these sectors, so we are encouraging the private sector to both support and participate in the meeting next month,” he added.

The fifth anniversary of the exchange, to be held at Chastanet’s Coco Resorts and a host of other properties on the island, will examine the enhancement of sustainable tourism development through the lens of “Chic Communications Concepts”, discussing culinary, cultural, health, sports, and village tourism linkages over four days in Castries. The conference will also focus on HIV/AIDS and what’s needed to mitigate the impact of the disease on regional populations.

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