EDITORIAL: Tourism – amidst all the shouting
TOO MANY OF US in this country are shouting at each other.
In all the discussion about the economy some good and workable ideas are being thrown up, but instead of serious reasoned analysis of the issues; scoring a point gets top priority and very often the national interest is compromised in the cacophony of voices firing back and forth.
An example of this is how we have treated tourism. That industry is now being touted as an export industry and deserving of the same incentives as traditional export industries. It has taken the outcry following generous incentives to the Sandals group for the light bulb to go off suggesting that the industry as a whole, and not the Sandals Group only, is an export industry and should be treated as such.
But the shouting continues. We shout at the BLP for saving the Gems project and we are shouting at the DLP for their decision to try to save Almond Beach. But in principle the reasoning behind both decisions was the same. The aim was to protect the public interest in earning foreign exchange and to maintain social cohesion in that sector of our society. People and their jobs and the earning of foreign exchange mattered then and now.
The building of the ABC Highway was to push west coast tourism into and beyond Speightstown. Without it, travel along Highway One would have been a nightmare and the development of West Coast tourism in St James would have been stifled and any tourism plans north of Holetown would have been stillborn.
But we shouted down Prime Minister Tom Adams in the early 80s when he suggested a four lane highway instead of debating the issue and reaching a decision consistent with the developing national interests. In fact, the most severe shouting took place from within his own party. So the problem may not be merely, or at all political.
Tourism is not like instant coffee. Forward planning and infrastructural development is required. Witness that the foresight of Grantley Adams and Errol Barrow in developing the Deep Water Harbour and the Airport, respectively, continues to bear fruit to this day.
Thirty years ago, we shouted about cadavers and refused St George’s Medical School permission to operate here from the empty St Joseph Hospital building. Today that building rots, while the school earns millions of dollars per year in foreign exchange for the Grenada economy, and we are now trying to bring other medical schools here.
We started shouting about “two Barbadoses” about some west coast developments until the recession brought us to our senses and we realised the value of such tourism projects.
Mr Denis Kellman has a point. St Lucy must develop its tourism potential, but no such development will take place there unless we stop the shouting and point scoring and seriously plan for the medium-term and long-term future of our tourism product.
We must not play Russian roulette with our tourism industry.