Free Speech…..is a wonderful thing. We can use it to make others aware of causes, issues and situations that may concern them. Social media, as a public platform, is the most popular way to publicize those thoughts and opinions. Of course, in doing so, we run the risk of “ruffling a few feathers”…! And when those who lose control, particularly when they lack either the information or intelligence to discuss an issue in a mature manner, get so abusive…it can actually help to highlight an issue…and lead to the “effect”…
Here’s one such occasion (05/12/12)…and the issue behind it….
The “lady” in this issue, if she could be labelled as such, is St. Lucian, an Ex Front Office Manager (looked after the reception for a whole 10 months) of Sandals…now resident and working in Canada.
To whet your appetites…here are a couple of quotes from this “lady”…!!
-“…people like him or of his ilk”
Me -“…I’m keen to learn what my “ilk” is!!”
-“You don’t know what your ilk is? A pompous white idiot like yourself…”
“…you really are pompous, think you know-it-all a$$hole!!”
Yes…moving right along…!! For a long time now, I’ve been attempting to draw people’s attention to issues pertaining to the tourism industry in St. Lucia. The simple fact is that 1000’s of people who may have come to St. Lucia for their wedding, bringing lots of friends and family….do not, due to policies operated by hotels here….and yes, the hotels are quite within their rights to act as they wish. But my purpose was simply to highlight the fact! I have 100’s of clients, already upset by this…but I wanted to hear the views of folks here…
“This ‘stick-up-his-ass’ bully tangoed with the wrong person today.”
And so I posted a message in a group on Facebook..”St. Lucians Aiming for Progress”….a group of 2600+ individuals who sometimes have intelligent discussions pertaining to issues on this island. And here was…the “soon-to-be” legendary reaction…!!
(After this conversation, I have clarified some points for the reader, since the person I was talking to…didn’t ask for clarification, nor seemed interested in doing so…really just missing the point! But if you are reading this, and you want to be fully aware of the issue and it’s ramifications…you’ll find it below this conversation posted from Facebook. I’ve highlighted some of the more interesting moments…and commented where appropriate…!! I’ve also cleverly disguised her name…because I love anagrams!)
Ray Hardy In the last 24 hours, 27 people have decided NOT to visit St. Lucia due to the fact that Morgan Bay hotel will not allow external photographers into their resort to photograph the client’s weddings. In the last 5 years, 4998 clients who would otherwise have brought much need revenue to this island, have not because Sandals Grande also ban external vendors. I think it’s good that everyone is aware that these hotels have these policies…and that 1000’s of visitors refuse to come to St. Lucia because of them. Comments anyone? Tourism revenue is all that can save this island…this is important!
Vermin Award The hotels have every right to have their policies that protect their revenue. They’re in business to make business not to see it walk out their doors. If these people want to go somewhere else because they don’t want to use the photographers of the hotel where they are having their weddings, go right ahead! These people also have the option to stay and have their weddings at other hotels in St. Lucia that do allow external photographers so I don’t buy that argument.
—-The simple fact is…if hotels were offering excellent photographers or photography on the most important day of these people’s lives…there’d be no need to exclude external vendors at all!! But of course, paying a minimum to staff, whilst charging 1200US for 42 images (at Sandals) per couple, and excluding the choice of the bride, is great business!!
Ray Hardy 1000’s don’t come here…and you don’t buy it?!!
Vermin Award Like I said, there are plenty of other hotels that allow external photographers. If they wanted to have their wedding in St Lucia there are plenty of other options. I resent when tourists believe we have to bend our rules/ laws/ policies, or in this case business decisions to woo them. Companies have a right to make business decisions in their interest. Potential visitors have the option to take it or leave it. They don’t come, they don’t come. Others will! Sandals Grande runs 90-100% year round.
—-She resents wooing tourists?? They can “take it or leave it”??!!
Ray Hardy Yes, and from 7257, 2259 did choose other options or other hotels here. I am contacted by many clients before they book hotels, so can recommend resorts like Ti Kaye or Windjammer. But, 4998 have not come. I’m sure you can understand that on the most important day of your life, you want to choose who photographs your day. This hotels are granted concessions upon receiving their contracts amongst other things. Banning hairdressers, tour companies, florists, taxi drivers, photographers and everyone else can lead to a great dissatisfaction amongst anyone coming. The point is not whether these hotels can run their businesses how thay choose, of course they can. The point is the number of people NOT coming here. And I just made a call, and the Grande is apparently at 72% occupancy this morning, La Toc is 64%.
Vermin Award I am highly suspect of these numbers and even if they are correct I DO NOT CARE!!!! They cannot go to Disney, or the Ritz or any other hotel in the world and demand that they change their policies to suit them. Like any other consumer, they have the option of doing business or not with any company based on their policies, prices etc. I do not know of any company that makes business decisions against its own self. If they go elsewhere, LET THEM GO!!!! And btw, I was a manager at Sandals Grande so I am in a better position than you to KNOW that Sandals Grande runs 90-100% year round.
——Doesn’t care…seriously? She loves her island…but doesn’t care if 1000’s don’t come here? A degree in tourism?? And…a “manager”…well…no…not really!
Ray Hardy M******, if you don’t care…then stop upsetting yourself, and refrain from commenting! Your loyalty to your ex-company is admirable however!! But your ignorance to the happiness of visitors to this island doesn’t change the fact that many are NOT coming. And that was my point.
Vermin Award Ignorance to the happiness of visitors?? Ray Hardy, I am a born St Lucian**, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism Management and a Master’s Degree in Tourism & Hospitality Management. Not only do I care passionately about my country, I also understand the business of tourism and what tourism means to St Lucia. I assure you, I do not need any lessons from you. “Happiness of visitors to this island”?? What does that mean to you? Does it mean St Lucia should be a free-for-all? That we should do whatever at any cost to woo these people?? Does it mean tourism by any means necessary? Does it mean we sell our soul for tourism? Does it mean we should throw out any rules/ laws/ policies we have to make visitors ‘happy’?? Sandals business model is one where it invests significantly in its marketing to fill its hotels, discounts its rooms, but relies on the business it makes from its ancillary businesses (photoshop, spa, tours, giftshops) to make its profits. How much did you invest into the marketing of St Lucia? How much did you spend to bring one visitor to St Lucia. Are they coming because Ray’s photography is ‘JUST SO AWESOME!!”?? No! I have certain issues with Sandals yes. But I have a problem with (1) businesses that believe that a company (that invests so much into creatiing its own market) has an obligation to let that business walk out the door to go to its competitor and (2) tourists that believe that we are so desperate for their $$ that we will sell our souls to please them.
—-**Here was the first indication…that some racial overtones were coming…! Worse though was her complete distaste at pleasing tourists! And offering those discounts, with a plan to get the money back via other services…at the expense of people’s choice…well…not very ethical is it??? But it’s clearly something she learnt with Sandals…and who am I to question their operations…?!!
—As for bringing tourists to St. Lucia…I could have stated more facts…but she wouldn’t believe it…so I’ll let the websites, images, testimonials etc speak for themselves!! Again…she’s missing the point!
Ray Hardy M******…I’m simply stating what you said. And actually, yes, I am THAT good at what I do. If I wasn’t this issue wouldn’t exist for me…a fact simple enough for even you to admit!!
Anyway, I’m clearly wasting my time in this forum…but given your clear passion for the views you state, I’m sure you won’t mind me quoting you in some literature I’m preparing with regards to this issue? I actually will use the whole thread. As an ex-manager of Sandals, your views are clearly significant to the situation. Thanks.
Vermin Award I did not give you permission to use any quotation from me and if you do I will gladly take legal action gainst you.
—wait…wait…she posts in a public forum…then wants to take legal action…??!
—–So, this afternoon, 24 hours after the event….I created a fake Facebook login…and simply viewed the group, and all of it’s posts…taking screen-shots as I went. So, the 2600 members of the group, myself…and…. the rest of the entire universe…(!!!) can simply do the same and check what’s written! Private…? No…it wasn’t…but if she has half a brain cell…she’ll be attending to that, the very moment she reads this…but way too late!!
Vermin Award I have a serious problem with expats like Ray who come to St Lucia and believe that they are some kind of authority into the laws/ dynamics/ culture of the place. Like somehow their eurocentric perspectives offer them some sort of superior intellect onhow things should run in St Lucia or that we should bend over backward to run after people like him or of his ilk. “I’m sure you won’t mind me quoting you in some literature I’m preparing with regards to this issue? I actually will use the whole thread. As an ex-manager of Sandals, your views are clearly significant to the situation.” I THINK YOU ARE QUITE POMPOUS, RUDE AND OUT OF PLACE and yes I do mind. I mind enough to file a law suit against you if you try it.
By the way, you said “Banning hairdressers, tour companies, florists, taxi drivers, photographers”. Let me correct this misrepresentation. Sandals Grande has employed 30+ (LOCAL) staff in its spa, contracts with LOCAL tour operators under the umbrella of its tour company Island Routes (ask Simon Says or any of the other many small operators), does not grow or imports flowers so again uses LOCAL florists as suppliers, employs 10+ (LOCAL) staff in its photoshop, contracted the GROS ISLET MINIBUS ASSOCIATION as the taxi operator, uses CJ’s Touring, a LOCAL company to do its luxury transfers. So what’s your point again? BTW Daniel, the General Managers of all 3 of the properties in St Lucia ARE ST LUCIAN!
—and here she goes…!! Strange how a “born St. Lucian” lady, living and working in Canada could play the “ex-pat” card…just a little hypocritical…but perhaps that sounds “pompous” of me…?!! Again, she defends Sandals…and misses the point completely…I was suddenly realizing why someone invented “smh”!!!
Ray Hardy May I suggest that the personal attacks are kept to a minimum, allowing a mature debate on this issue to actually happen?
Vermin Award You don’t know what your ilk is? A pompous white idiot like yourself who believes St Lucia owes you something that you did not earn or that St Lucia should be so happy to have you because of your ‘awesomeness’ we are supposed to change our policies to suit you. Your character here says a lot about your business and how you operate. I made a statement using my PERSONAL profile in a PRIVATE group and you DO NOT have my permission to use any content here either from me or from this group (which I am an administrator) to use in any publication of yours.
—-sssttttttrrriiiike!! And there she blows!! Why she had to play the race card…is beyond me…but perhaps given her distaste for “wooing” tourists, we can ascertain that she’s had issues with white people!? But wait…she’s gonna blow again…
Vermin Award P.S. May I suggest you take your own advice. Cheers! I have seen some of the comments you have made about St Lucia, St Lucians and St Lucian-owned companies and you really are pompous, think you know-it-all a$$hole!! Go check out Ray’s wall everyone and see some of the comments he makes about the very St Lucia that has extended its hospitality to him. This ‘stick-up-his-ass’ bully tangoed with the wrong person today. **smh**
—-Yes, here it comes…!!…I am an “asshole” now too…and wait…is that a “stick up my ass”???!!!
—As for any comments I make about businesses, or situations…I’ll stand by them…unless of course it’s found that I’m abusive, ignorant or racist…like some people I could point to!! Oh…no…was that pompous too…? Sorry, I just can’t seem to help myself…!!
After having a quick check for the “stick up my ass”… I was banned from the group, of which she is an admin…! Of course she’d do that…it’s like screaming and slamming a door…getting in the last word….and forbidding the response!! She didn’t have the courage to inform anyone though…nooooooooo…she happily “liked” their comments that I’d effectively run away to lick my wounds!!
“Tangoed” with the wrong person?….I think not!
So, there you have it. Verbal abuse, heavy racial overtones…sad really for a person with a degree to have to sink to such levels…but sadly, there’s no accounting for some people’s ignorance or lack of debating skills.
Other folks posted in the thread…most of whom agreed with her…and none of which actually mentioned her comments concerning my colour. Though, three people within the group did message me privately, stating their distaste for her “aggressive nature” and “racist remarks”.
So…here are the simple truths about this situation…
As a photographer and wedding planner here, I am contacted by people looking for a destination wedding or photography. Some of these have been recommended by friends and family, others see my various websites or social media pages. When they write or call, I ask several questions, including where they plan to stay and the group size they plan to bring. In conversation, they will state they are considering St. Lucia, Barbados, and other places…even maybe staying home in “Philly”! I’m asked to recommend hotels, tours, trips….asked if the island is safe, friendly…etc etc. In a lot of cases, people decide upon St. Lucia, sometimes because of my recommendation, though often coupled with advertising, offers or other recommendations. Of course, many others have chosen St. Lucia already….then look to use the same choice in choosing their photographer or wedding planner.
Some stay at hotels who forbid external vendors, though many are not aware of this policy when they book. This is a shame for them, but of course, these hotels are quite within their rights to operate how they wish, provided of course they abide with the rules, concessions and conditions granted to them by the Government of St. Lucia. This is NOT the issue! It’s something I will pursue with the clients themselves, by other means.
The issue is that from these many inquiries I receive, in conversation via email or by phone, it’s easy to collate numbers of people who decide against St. Lucia. For example, a couple contacted me about St. Lucia, saying their friend had used me for photography at their wedding at Ti Kaye, and they loved it. Despite recommending Ti Kaye, Bay Gardens Beach, WIndjammer and Sugar Beach as wonderful locations to stay at…she had been offered a great deal by Sandals and was keen to keep things as inexpensive for herself and her 21 guests. When I told her that Sandals forbid her the choice of her own photographer, she was very upset…very upset. Despite offering her alternatives…she lost patience with the whole idea…and the wedding is now set for June next year…in Chicago.
This one wedding, was 21 guests…that’s 23 people who won’t be staying here, etc etc. With many clients like this, it’s easy to see how these numbers can be extremely substantial over a period of time.
Another couple, planning to marry at Morgan Bay, upon my telling them I couldn’t go in and photograph their wedding, cancelled the trip…and are now going to Barbados instead. Morgan Bay & St. Lucia lost 27 clients….approximately 75,000US!!
I photograph just 8 weddings a year at Morgan Bay on average…which may cost the hotel…what…$4000US in a year….?? But…how does that stack up to losing $75,000US in losing just ONE client and her party?? And how much did St. Lucia lose??
Again…The simple fact is…if hotels were offering excellent photographers or photography on the most important day of these people’s lives…there’d be no need to exclude external vendors at all!! But of course, paying a minimum to staff, whilst charging 1200US for 42 images (at Sandals) per couple is great business!!
Again, here’s the point…a lot of people are not coming here, not paying taxes at the airport, not going on tours, not shopping in the market, not eating at restaurants, not using taxis or any other local businesses!! The fact is that people are very keen that the only physical memories they get of the day, their photographs, are of a quality that they can ensure…and WILL change island, or resorts…to ensure their own choice.
Sadly…if people, like the lady quoted above, are so close-minded to the happiness of tourists…can tourism here ever really be all it can be??