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Happy Tourism Month

Minister“Oh there’s a lovely island in the Caribbean Sea, with cocoa, citrus, coconut and fine banana trees. There’s arrowroot and sugarcane a-waving in the breeze; St. Vincent and the Grenadines is its name.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines joins the many other Caribbean islands in celebrating Tourism Month from November 1st – 30th with our slogan ‘Tourism is Everyone’s Business, Live it, Love it, Embrace it’.

The tourism industry has become a powerful economic sector that has the ability to transform the lives of communities. According to the World Tourism Organization, in 2015 the Caribbean welcomed 7% more tourists than the year before. That is, nearly twice the 4.4% global average tourism growth.

As one of the most tourism-dependent regions in the world which continues to see increases in travellers each year, it is important to reflect on the industry’s transformative ability to improve lives, and the various attributes that make SVG’s tourism product unique.

Tourism Month is an opportunity to raise the level of tourism awareness among our students, stakeholders and general population. It is meant to encourage us, Vincentians, to appreciate just how important the industry is to the sustainable development of our country and to familiarize ourselves with the local tourism product and the diversity of our 32 islands and cays.

The tourism product in St. Vincent and the Grenadines comes in a very diverse packages. Locals and visitors alike can visit the iconic Tobago Cays, hike in the majestic Vermont Nature Trail, snorkel or scuba dive at the numerous dive sites, unwind at our white and black sand beaches, or participate in various cultural activities. What an awesome responsibility, and a sense of pride it evokes, to be the keepers of the oldest Botanical Garden in the western hemisphere! How delightful it is to be greeted by our National Birds with their lively hellos and colourful goodbyes'.

However, the physical beauty of our islands themselves in tourism is insufficient without the human factor—the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines—playing a crucial and active role in the industry.

As Minister of Tourism, I remind our community groups, private sector enterprises, government departments, individuals—including students—of the need to work together, and to be focused on one common goal, to the benefit of all.

It cannot be emphasized enough that our citizens at home or in the diaspora can better sell the product if, first, they know it well. In this crucial sector, it is so important that the players understand the industry and remain closely involved with the Ministry of Tourism to improve on what we are offering.

Our Vincentian hospitality can only be maintained by constant practice. It must not be something that we put on only to impress the visitor, but must be a quality that we express on a daily basis, at home, at school, at work and at play.

Let it become our modus operandi and the standard by which we operate as Vincentians. With this, I must highlight the local tourism service standards and licensing system that is now fully implemented. This requires a greater level of quality from our stakeholders to lift our services to international standards. Thank you to all stakeholders who have seen the need for the standards and are now fully on board with us.

As tourism ambassadors, we must promote and speak positively about the destination, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We MUST live up to our pledge to be loyal to our country. We must have faith, for our faith will see us through the ups and downs and stresses brought on by global volatilities.

The tourism industry also includes local and regional tourists. During Tourism Month, we invite Vincentians to also experience a “taste of Vincy” by exploring our very own unique destination. We encourage locals to know our country intimately, so as to confidently recommend to others, the best experiences and places to see in SVG. There is great potential for family adventures and stay-at-home vacations once we open our eyes to our very own treasure of islands.

Why should we, as one people, work together to make St. Vincent and the Grenadines “the Caribbean dream destination everyone’s looking for”? It is because global communication systems have placed us under sharper scrutiny, thereby demanding a greater responsibility on our part to get it right. It is obvious that in a world of instant messaging and live streaming, the power of digital reality demands a greater responsibility on our part to get it right.

This is one of the reasons why the Ministry of Tourism has organized activities throughout the month of November to inspire our citizens through events such as career expos, school visits and the annual tourism awards.

Additionally, as part of our efforts to continue building capacity within our industry we will be conducting human resource training seminars to lift the quality of service and enhance the overall visitor experience.

I am happy to state that we will be welcoming the Britannia cruise ship, on its inaugural visit during Tourism Month, where we will see over 4,000 persons visiting our shores on November 11, 2016. How we respond to this wonderful opportunity will, to a large extent, shine a light on whether we are moving forward together with maturity to capitalize on this competitive market.

As the Ministry celebrates Tourism Month, we wish to say thanks to all the individuals across our sector who assist our visitors and locals in one way or the other and work tirelessly in the hospitality and tourism industry in St. Vincent.

We acknowledge and say thank you to our staff, hoteliers, taxi drivers, tour guides, tour operators, and immigration officers…the list can go on. Thank you all!

Highlights of the 2016 Tourism Month include:
- Media Tour – 8th November
- Tourism Career Talks – 9th November
- Craft Exhibition and Cultural Showcase – 11th November
- Tourist Dress Day – 18th November
- Street 20 Cricket – 19th November
- Tourism Awards – 26th November

I could not conclude my message without myself practising what I have just advised you to do. St. Vincent and the Grenadines now proudly offers a product that is loved the world over, and I am pleased to remind you that, with our Nine Mornings Festival and Christmas Celebration around the corner, our own locally produced Vincentian Chocolate bar, made from beans grown right here ins St. Vincent and the Grenadines, can be found on our major supermarket shelves. Made from 72% fine dark chocolate from the finest cocoa beans, this product is a testimony to the hard work of our Vincy farmers, and confirms the inter-locking nature of the two industries, placing St. Vincent on the international stage of chocolate producing countries.

Coconut oil which was once incorrectly labeled as an unhealthy oil is back as one of the healthiest alternatives not only for food consumption but as a skin care product. Our coconut water, bottled as a refreshing drink; our arrowroot and cassava farine—nicely packaged and ready to be bought as souvenirs by our visitors—here again, tourism and agriculture intersect, and it is our best interest to promote what is ours.

I would like to wish Vincentians far away and at home a wonderful Tourism Month and send out the challenge to every person to tell the story of what’s in our homeland that people can find in the Caribbean they’re looking for.

God bless St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Happy Tourism Month!

Message from Cecil McKie Minister of Tourism, Sports and Culture