During the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association’s 49th Annual General Meeting, Keynote Speaker and Immediate Past President of the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, Sanovnik Destang has called on local private sector tourism stakeholders to take charge of reigniting Dominica’s growth engine. While delivering the keynote address at the 49th Annual General Meeting of the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association (DHTA) on August 15, Destang outlined opportunities to encourage growth via the tourism sector and questioned whether Dominicans were aware of the possibilities which exist.
“You truly are the Caribbean’s Garden of Eden,” he shared, “and we need to see you take your rightful place. But clearly, it’s going to require an initiative that is private sector driven. You can never expect [only] the government to be the driver of economic growth.”
Instead, he stated, the private sector needs facilitation by government in the form of policy, insurance regulations, access to finance and investment in infrastructure, among others.
“We need a realisation, a genuine buying from the government of a few inescapable truths. That people are our most valuable assets, that tourism for all its imperfections is the most critical industry to islands such as Dominica […] and needs to be on the front burner at all times.” He also mentioned that “tourism represents the best chance for lifting our people out of poverty, once we make a deliberate effort to ensure that its benefits accrue to local entrepreneurs through linkages through the rest of the economy.”
Destang stressed the importance of involving the wider society in the efforts, reminding those present that the private sector and the government alone will not have the capacity to reignite the growth engine without support of the society that provides employees, and sometimes customers.
The keynote speaker also proposed that Dominica, like St. Lucia, Barbados, Jamaica and other island, should establish a tourism enhancement fund to support developmental projects with direct or indirect benefits to the tourism sector. The fund would be managed by the private sector through the DHTA and will be sustained with contributions from members and other corporate partners.
Minister for Tourism and Culture, Robert Tonge pledged his support to the DHTA and took the time out to outline the plans of the government for the sector. Still he admitted, “there is still much work to be done to ensure that we build a more robust competitive industry that can continue to drive the growth agenda” which is why the “government has decided to pursue a national agenda to making us more resilient in the face of natural hazards.”
Through advocacy, implementation of policy and membership, the new DHTA President, Marvlyn Alexander-James, along with her board of directors, plans to make a concerted effort to assist with steering the country forward as Dominica embarks on a new path to building and repositioning the most vital economic sector.
She noted that improvements in air access, linkages in the music and cultural sectors and well as access to finance are needed.
“For Dominica to become more economically resilient,” she said, “it is imperative that we consider and take on initiatives to make our industry more sustainable.”
“We would like to see a return to the national discourse on sustainable tourism for Dominica and ways to reposition the destination to be a world class adventure based destination. We would like to see formulation of policies that address issues related to to waste management. Managing brand Dominica post Maria is critical and this is something that we will work with the DDA and members on to ensure that the services and products we offer meet the expectations of our guests.”
In his closing remarks Destang praised Dominica for its authenticity and urged Dominicans to hold on to their pride in its unique culture and heritage.
“You are essentially what all of us are longing to be. Authentic and unspoilt. We’re trying to manufacture that in St. Lucia and parts of the Caribbean, but you have it naturally. You can’t manufacture Dominica’s authenticity. You are Dominica, we are not. We’re trying to be, but we’re not. You are literally the last of your kind in this part of the world and you are critical part of brand Caribbean. The entire Caribbean right now, honestly, is rooting for you. We’re eagerly awaiting your comeback.,” he affirmed.
During the closed session of the 49th Annual General Meeting a new board of Directors were elected:
- Marvlyn Alexander-James – Fort Young Hotel – President
- Louis Patrick Hill – Aywasi Kalinago Retreat – 1st Vice President
- Sheldon Bruno – Pagua Bay – Director of Finance
- Michael Schoonewagen – Kempinski Resort – Director of Accommodations
- Jerry Williams – Atlantique View – Director of Membership
- Neysha McIntyre – Anichi Resort – Director of Public Relations
- Amber Rolle – WRAVE – Director of Tourism Services
- Jenner Phillip Guiste – Combine Taxi Association – Director of Related Services
- Arienne Perryman – Dive Dominica – Immediate Past President
- Colin Piper – Discover Dominica Authority