GHTA is slammed over letter

The Grenada Tourism & Hotel Association (GHTA) has been slammed by the island’s premier hotelier, Sir Royston Hopkin over a letter that it wrote to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell seeking to influence him to allow Alexandra Otway-Noel to remain as the Minister of Tourism.

Sir Royston described the letter as in rather poor taste given the fact that the Cabinet of Ministers are appointed at the sole discretion of the Prime Minister.

The most celebrated local hotelier said that he would distance his two properties – Spice Island Beach Resort and Blue Horizons – from the offensive letter that was dispatched to the Grenadian leader.

Sir Royston gave a serious scolding to those hoteliers who were associated with the letter that was signed by association president, Jerry Rappaport, an american who is involved in the running of the small La Sagesse Nature Center hotel in St. David’s.

Following is the text of the GHTA letter that was sent to PM Mitchell:

Dr. the Hon. Keith Mitchell
Prime Minister of Grenada
Prime Minister’s Office
Botanical Gardens

11 November 2014

Dear Honourable Prime Minister

We the Directors and Members of the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association wish to urgently express our support for our Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Alexandra Otway-Noel; in light of the announcement of upcoming changes to Ministerial portfolios on Thursday.

In the closing remarks of the GHTA’s Annual General meeting on October 28th, we described Minister Noel as the best Tourism Minister Grenada has ever had. By contrast we have heard reports of your confidence in the Grenada Tourism Authority; and that you have attributed the staggering recovery to their performance as an institution.  If these reports are true we could not disagree more.

Our experience with the Tourism Authority has been far below satisfactory for reasons too long to list for the purposes of this letter. However, we can unequivocally and unanimously say: “Grenada has never had a Minister of Tourism like Alexandra Otway-Noel and we want to continue working with her”.

This is what we have achieved together:

When we published our economic recovery plan in 2013, nearly 50% of our hotels were at risk of closing by 2015. Now that number has reduced to 39%.  In our 2013 survey, our members reported that 144 people were either laid off or on rotation, by October of this year 100% of those people have returned to work. 76% of our hotel members report that business has improved and 82% report feeling optimistic about the future.

I cannot stress enough that an enormous amount of that optimism is embedded in the relationship we have with the Minister. We believe any change to her Ministerial portfolio would be a devastating blow to us as an industry as well as to us personally since we have invested our own capital in a programming partnership that was predicated on the strength of this relationship.

We urge you, that in the event that you were considering moving the Minister, you hear our calls. The Tourism Industry needs “Alex” and we do not want to see her go.

While you may see her vision and her gifts as things that are needed in other sectors and we can’t deny that, this relationship is a mutual one and the growth and recovery of this sector has been so driven by a handful of passionate people; breaking up that team at this critical turning point in our economic recovery would be tantamount to abandoning us in our time of need.

Our relationship with the Grenada Tourism Authority is rife with problems. The very future of Pure Grenada and all the things we have worked so hard to achieve over the last 18 months are on the line.

Several other business organisations have requested an opportunity to develop a sub-brand of Pure Grenada because they recognize its strength.

This is our innovation and we will not continue on the path that we are on in the hands of the GTA and a new Minister no matter who they are. We have built a special team of special people – and it is their work, their passion, their synergies and their ability to attract the attention of the world that has made the difference for us. Please do not let that go. As a cricketer, you know the value of team spirit and that spirit exists between us and the Minister. It does not exist between us and the GTA.

We sincerely hope that you had no intention to appoint a new Minister of Tourism and this letter of support is being received as an amusing display of support from a community that has picked itself up by its bootstraps and got to work forging a new and stronger future for Grenada.

We are a team and we want to stay together.

On behalf of the Directors of the GHTA.

Jerry Rappaport

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