Former Tourism Minister Dr. George Vincent has expressed the view that Government is not doing enough to ensure that Grenadians can maximise on the benefits to be derived from the country’s tourism industry, especially in the rural communities.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper last week Friday, Dr Vincent said that more emphasis should be placed on “developing the rural attractions” and that “government need to focus on the rural attractions and help to develop them to a standard that people must go to,” when visiting Grenada.
“We should not concentrate the tourism in one belt as we have done over the long while,” Dr Vincent argued suggesting that “there must be a deliberate policy effort to make sure that the community activities and rural attractions are all in international quality and standards so that we can drive people there”, he told the newspaper.
Dr. Vincent, who is the current Chairman and spokesperson of Tourism and Agriculture for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), served as Tourism Minister for approximately eight months under the previous Tillman Thomas-led government.
He emphasised the importance of sensitising the nation’s populace on the importance of the tourism sector which has surpassed agriculture in job creation and foreign exchange earnings.
“It is really important to maximise on the economic benefit of tourism; that we spread tourism throughout the geography of Grenada” especially in the “rural communities,” he said.
Noting the safety of Grenada as a destination, Dr. Vincent stated that, “people are comfortable visiting the rural areas and we must encourage that.”
However, he pointed out that education is a must. “We must educate and make our people aware of how important that (tourism) is,” he remarked.
The former Tourism Minister also cited a lack of creativity as one of the main factors affecting the growth of the country’s tourism industry.
“That’s one of the problems we have…we really need to help people to experience the adventures…We are not creative and innovative and we do the same thing – an island tour, a stop in the boiling spring, and Bathway for a day or a half-day on the beach, but” he said, “the visitor of today is more creative and adventurous.”
He went on to say: “We need to get creative to provide activities that people are going to enjoy but at the same time pay for…”.
In pointing to the importance of Grenadian culture and heritage, Dr. Vincent said, “we need to get creative” but “stay within our culture.”
He added that “tourism is not only about quantities of visitors” but also “about giving people the experience that they are willing to pay for so that we (the people) get the income and people get jobs and sell stuff.”
Referring to the 18 per cent increase in visitor arrival recorded by the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) in 2014, Dr Vincent affirmed that “having 18 per cent overall with nothing to sell to the Grenadian people we end up in the same position with a crowded St George’s.”
He said, “we must increase sales in terms of revenue and the spend of the visitor,” while “at the same time increase the visitor numbers so that Grenada would be better off in the long run.”
Last week, from Thursday, 9th April to Saturday, 11th April 2015 the GTA hosted a series of promotional activities in Trinidad & Tobago with the aim of selling Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique as the destination of choice for leisure and romance.
According to the GTA “in 2014, more than 13,000 visitors from Trinidad & Tobago spent time in Grenada, making this country the highest visitor source market in the Caribbean.”
The Authority also reported “visitors from the twin island republic mostly travelled to the tri-island state for holiday, weddings and honeymoons, business, and to spend time with family and friends.”
Commenting on the trip, Dr. Vincent said while promotions and marketing help to bring people here and brings the awareness out there, it is equally “important to fix the product.”
He said, “We have a lot of product that we are ignoring,” expressing the thought that “the GTA is not taking product development seriously.”
Dr. Vincent said “the days of sun, sea and sand are over,” and that “we have to offer them (the visitors) something else.”
He reiterated, ”we have a physical product that is exceptional but we need to improve on the attractions.”
“So we are going out there to bring people in but we are not maximising the benefit that we can get from our investment in that trip (to Trinidad) and in the tourism “, he said.
He stressed that what needs to happen and what “is ideal is that when people come to us they are interested, excited and are willing to come again.”
“We want to have a repeat visitation that is satisfied with what we are offering and with the experience it would maximise the investment,” he said, adding “this is why the product has to be right so that when we invest in marketing and travel, they (visitors) come (to the island) and continue to come and bring people as we go. We don’t have to go back again and again and again.”
The GTA said it will continue to market and promote the destination, Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, which offers safe, relaxing holidays and a tempting selection of soft adventures.