Scandals!! The Tourism Minister says….”it’s their business….they can do what they want!”

Well folks, the Tourism Minister here in St. Lucia, Mr Allen Chastenet, kindly agreed to appear on a local talk show this evening! Mr. Chastenet is a good man. Honestly, he is. Despite what you may have heard concerning his associations, he is. He’s more experienced in tourism and marketing than most here put together. He’s one of the few ministers here who can talk freely, without a script, eloquently and concisely.

Tonight, live on TV, I asked him why vendors (external service providers) such as photographers, taxi drivers, food suppliers, florists, hairdressers and some lawyers are not allowed to ply their wares with some hotels on the island, in particular, Sandals. His answer was brief, and a little animated. “It’s their business….they can do what they want!”

St. Lucia just gave Sandals $700,000US dollars, for which Sandals has promised to double for use in advertising the Sandals chain. Two conditions, Sandals are going to provide specific advertising to this island (about time!), and promised, get this, promised not to make anyone redundant for a whole year.  And why, because the Minister does not want to see “hotels closing down, or jobs lost”, in this recession. Strangely, he also mentioned at the end of the piece that Sandals were in fact full. So, why would anyone be losing their jobs or the hotel closing? Now, given that consumer spending and the Dow have already started to rise, and if you spend any time watching CNN…we can assume the recession is as good as over. So, why are we funding such advertising for those circumstances? Sandals must have had huge grins on their faces as they left that meeting! “Oh yeah, we just got St. Lucia to fund a third of our advertising for the next year!”

The Minister stated that restaurants, cafes and local businesses benefit from visitors to this particular hotel. I’ve spoken to many clients of my own staying at Sandals, the majority of whom are anything but encouraged to venture out from the hotel. 82% (yep…I did a survey!) of visitors I met at Sandals Grande had no clue whatsoever that just a two minute walk away is a National Trust Park, Pigeon Island. A trust that relies mainly on visitors to maintain itself. I myself briefly ran two restaurants in Rodney Bay Village, and rarely met anyone staying at Sandals. From my research, this is still the case. Of course, Sandals are an all-inclusive…so they cook the food whether or not you eat it, so why persuade you to leave?

Of course, however Sandals choose to run their business, there are still responsibilities and accountability…or should be? With concessions, contributions to advertising etc! Sandals have 3 of the best locations in St. Lucia, but the profit goes somewhere else. For all the talk,

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