My fellow citizens,
Today September 27th is World Tourism Day, a global observance which has been celebrated each year since 1970, to foster awareness about tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value and the contribution the sector can make towards sustainable development of our societies.
Employing one (1) in every 10 persons world-wide, Tourism is a major driver of economic growth with a unique potential to create jobs and opportunities to supplement decent livelihoods. Further, it has a distinctive role in preserving our natural and cultural heritage and promoting the responsible and sustainable use of the natural environment. However, as we have witnessed here in the Federation, throughout the region and indeed, around the world, it is also the sector most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the UNWTO (U.N. World Tourism Organization) the most severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being borne by marginalized groups and the most vulnerable among us, with women the hardest hit. Why? One reason for this is that they work mainly in the sectors most affected by the pandemic – including tourism.
Page 1 of 7
But the pandemic must not be perceived as just a time of crisis, constraints and challenges. Once properly managed, it is also a catalyst for innovation and transformation in how we conduct the business of tourism. The pandemic must be seen as a watershed moment that is expediting much-needed cross-sectoral reforms and interventions; a time for recalibration in the industry to enable sustainable recovery and growth that will benefit the economy as a whole. The ultimate goal is a return to a carefully managed, resilient, competitive and much sought-after tourism product; one that once again supports thousands of jobs across several sectors and enables progress and prosperity for our people.
The theme for World Tourism Day 2021, “Tourism for Inclusive Growth,” clearly articulates the critically important role tourism must play going forward in delivering benefits that are more equitably spread across sectors, and within communities worldwide, so they are enjoyed more widely and fairly by ALL. As I reflect on the theme, I take pride in the realization that here in the Federation, with our phased recovery well underway, our “All of Society” approach to handling the pandemic is inclusive by its very definition. It is one of the reasons why we have been successful in our management of the pandemic and it is at the heart of our strategies to kickstart the recovery process.
Our “Travel Approved” Certification and Seal Program, developed over a year ago by the Ministry of Tourism and the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, has provided all tourism- related business operators and service providers with opportunities for training to safely and responsibly rebuild and restart tourism. To secure broad stakeholder participation, the XCD$ 100 application fee was waived. Further, a comprehensive communications campaign was undertaken to promote the complimentary training and ensure that everyone
Page 2 of 7
in the entire tourism community was fully aware of its availability, at no cost to them. I am pleased to announce that the fee will be waived again this year for the 2021-22 season to ensure a successful and safe reboot in the sector, with our people and businesses equipped to deliver service excellence and keep the destination safe, attractive and competitive.
As of today, I am proud to report that 5,271 persons in the Federation have received the training: 3,557 persons in St. Kitts and 1,714 persons in Nevis, with the highest numbers of trained individuals among the St. Kitts Hotels and Accommodations sector at 867, the St. Kitts Bars and Restaurants sector at 771, our taxi operators at 416 and the SCASPA & Airport team at 403. Of the 3,557 persons trained in St. Kitts, 40% are women. Furthermore, our reach into the sector included training of those with non-traditional skills such as our hair braiders, aloe rub vendors and primate petting vendors, all of whom enhance the scope of our visitors’ experience. Make-up artists and hair stylists, spa attendants, entertainers, wedding planners, travel agents and more – indeed ALL were welcomed into the training to prepare the sector for recovery and truly inclusive growth.
Similarly, to ensure our human capacity development agenda keeps pace with a rapidly evolving and dynamic industry, both internal staff and external stakeholder businesses have been participating in a number of virtual and face-to-face seminars that have provided practical insights into the future of work in the sector and techniques for transitioning to the ‘new normal’ that will define the industry. Starting in June for example, the Ministry of Tourism facilitated the participation of forty-six primarily women-headed micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME”s) in the Federation, in the Future Tourism Business Adaptation Programme. The training initiative is jointly funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the University of the West Indies and the Frankfurt
Page 3 of 7
School of Finance and Management, covering concepts such Digital Technologies, Financial Planning and Marketing. The first phase of the eighteen-month long programme ends in September of this year. In this period of recovery, this training is indeed timely and practical to help these vulnerable businesses adapt to increased demands for enhanced health and safety practices, use of blockchain technologies such as mobile payment systems, digitalised tourism services and other platforms which will expand visitor choices, spur innovation and development and facilitate access to markets within tourism value- chains. Moreover, the programme complements core projects already being implemented by the Ministry and is aligned with key UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) that promote gender equality, poverty reduction and support for sustainable cities and communities. This remains our mandate and mission as we continue on the journey to rebuilding and reinvigorating the local tourism sector.
With over 250 inventoried sites of historical interest and importance, St. Kitts possesses the raw materials for comprehensive Community Based Tourism (CBT) development; leveraging our tangible and intangible culture and heritage to add to our menu of immersive, memorable experiences for locals and visitors alike. This highly inclusive brand of tourism is strongly encouraged and promoted to diversify our tourism real estate, deliver a more eclectic and competitive tourism product that is aligned with the sustainability interests of potential patrons, inspire stewardship and ownership among residents and distribute the economic spinoffs of tourism to a larger number of individuals and communities, that are able to directly participate in and enjoy the benefits of the industry. This is critically important for creating and sustaining decent work and protecting livelihoods for more of our citizens and residents. Two initiatives that readily come to mind, which are designed to expand the reach of tourism directly into more rural communities, are the Black Rocks Enhancement project and the St. Kitts Eco Park experience.
Page 4 of 7
Similarly, our efforts to position the Federation for the full revival of the sector include support for vaccination programmes; which around the world commenced on December 1, 2020, and continue to become more widespread. Together with softer restrictions for vaccinated travelers, vaccinations are the key contributors to the gradual growth and normalization of travel. I am therefore gratified to report on the success of The Federation’s vaccination campaign with 74.9% of the target population having had one dose and 66.3% % of the target population fully vaccinated, as of September 10, 2021. (Up to date numbers to be plugged in the night before the speech is recorded). Currently that is the highest rate of vaccinations in the OECS.
Tourism benefits both the visitors and the destinations they visit and St. Kitts and Nevis is a destination that remains in demand. The attractiveness of the Federation has been repeatedly reaffirmed, with media outlets citing the islands for providing the traveling public with what they are looking for today: a safe, calm and uncrowded space to enjoy nature and relax. Our stayover visitor numbers have been steadily increasing since the reopening of our borders on October 31, 2020, with the August arrivals the highest we have seen since 2019. Our airline partners are increasing service as they note the increasing demand. On October 3, 2021, British Airways is scheduled to resume service from Gatwick, on November 2, 2021 American Airlines will re-instate the daily flight from Miami; On November 7, Air Canada will commence its weekly flight from Toronto, and by December’s start of peak season, service will resume from Charlotte and JFK on American Airlines and from Newark on United Airlines.
However, for the full re-start of our economic engine, tourism, and our ability to sustain long term growth in the industry, the cruise tourism sector must be able to fully re-start. Recently, through the leadership of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, the Covid -19 Task
Page 5 of 7
Force and the Ministry of Health, an agreement was reached to allow the Federation to welcome ships carrying both fully vaccinated and non-vaccinated cruise passengers. Different testing standards will apply to each group, with fully vaccinated passengers able to provide proof of a negative RT-PCT Test or antigen test taken 72 hours prior to entry into St Kitts. A non-vaccinated passenger must provide proof of a negative RT-PCR test taken 72 hours prior to entry to St. Kitts. All passengers may be allowed entry within a Covid-19 approved “bubble.” This is yet another innovative option for jump starting the economic recovery process while safeguarding the health and safety of our guests and service providers alike.
As we endeavor to increase the number of persons who can participate in the economic benefits associated with the resumption of cruise, we are again appealing to all persons in the sector wishing to interact with cruise passengers within the “bubble,” to get vaccinated. As a proven antidote to serious illness and death from the virus, vaccination is also key to maintaining a healthy tourism-sector workforce and hastening our steps to recovery.
As we celebrate World Tourism Day 2021, we do so with a renewed sense and deeper appreciation of the importance of the global tourism sector in supporting equitable access to decent work, enhanced livelihoods and measurable socioeconomic growth and development for many countries. World Tourism Day is designed to pay tribute to this transversal and dynamic industry, to encourage people to travel and to honor those who do such a remarkable job working in the tourism sector.
I know, I certainly want to use this occasion to congratulate the hard-working stakeholders of the tourism industry here in the Federation. Over the past 18 months, the vast majority of you have demonstrated much patience and resilience, an enduring and pioneering spirit and a resolve to preserve and rebuild the tourism sector.
Page 6 of 7
At the Ministry of Tourism and the St. Kitts Tourism Authority we salute you and express our heartfelt thanks and that of the Government, for your steadfast and unrelenting efforts, for remaining focused and optimistic despite the challenges. Let’s continue to celebrate our achievements to date, and use them as steppingstones to a brighter, more prosperous and inclusive future in tourism. Together we will rebuild, we will recover, we will excel!
Happy World Tourism Day 2021!!