President of the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association (GHTA), Jerry Rappaport has expressed regrets over certain contents contained in a letter written to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in which they pledged their loyalty to the outgoing Minister of Tourism Alexandra Otway-Noel and not her successor in a planned Cabinet reshuffle.
The letter, dated November 11, was leaked to the press a few days before Dr. Mitchell announced a major Cabinet reshuffle in which Otway-Noel was demoted from being a full fledged Minister in charge of a ministry and now placed as only a Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister.
In the letter, the hoteliers sought to lobby PM Mitchell to get Otway-Noel to continue in the portfolio that she has held since the ruling New National Party (NNP) was voted back into office 21 months ago.
However, the efforts of the GHTA failed as the Prime Minster removed Otway-Noel as Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation and appointed her as Minister in his office with responsibility for Implementation.
In seeking to explain the GHTA actions, Rappaport told a GBN Television program that the hotel body became aware of the impending Cabinet reshuffle but was not aware of who would be affected in the reshuffle.
He added that it was bit of information which motivated the hoteliers to write the letter to the Grenadian leader and in the haste of putting it together due to limited time on their hands, there were some wordings in the letter that he very much regretted.
Rappaport who described Otway-Noel as a tourism ambassador for Grenada said GHTA had a wonderful working relationship with her and was able to accomplish a lot during her stint as Tourism Minister.
“I regret certain implications that were made in the letter and since that time we have done everything we can to clear the air,” he remarked.
According to the GHTA President, he regrets that it was felt in some quarters that the letter was trying to tell PM Mitchell what to do with the Cabinet reshuffle when in fact the hoteliers were merely trying to provide him with information that they felt might be helpful for him to make the best decision in the interest of the industry.
Rappaport was clearly upset that the GHTA letter was leaked to the media.
He said the letter was intended for Dr. Mitchell and was also sent to the GHTA membership as he felt they should understand what he was doing as their representative.
“I do not know who leaked it to the press, it was never intended to go to the press, and if we intended it to go to the press we would have released it in a press conference,” he added.
At least one hotelier did not support the GHTA’s letter.
Top hotelier Sir Royston Hopkin of Spice Island Beach Resort (SIBR) publicly blasted the association for its action, saying “they have lost it”.
Rappaport dropped hints that relations between GHTA and Sir Royston have “strayed” over the years.
The GHTA President disclosed that he intends to reach out to Sir Royston who is a former President of the Association.
He said it is important that all hoteliers be inclusive and for all GHTA members to be in communication and working together for the common goal.
“When I was asked to become the President of the GHTA at our first Board meeting, I said to the Board members that I felt one of the most important things as an Association in going forward was to develop that alliance and communication with Sir. Royston than we have had as an organisation, because we have not had great dialogue (with him) recently and for quite some time,” he added.
THE NEW TODAY also understands that another major player in the hotel industry – Grand Beach Resort now called Raddison – opted out several years ago from being a member of GHTA.
With effect from December 1, the portfolio of Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister will be in the hands of Yolande Bain-Horsford, the Member of Parliament for St. Andrew South-west.
Rappaport gave assurances that GHTA is committed to working with the new Minister and helping her to learn and get familiar with what has been happening in the industry in the last few years.