Sir Lester laments “painful” stagnation in tourism sector

Former Prime Minister Sir Lester Bird

Former Prime Minister Sir Lester Bird has lamented the decline in the country’s tourism sector, saying that the sector appears to be suffering from inertia.

“We have not placed emphasis on the development of all the facets of the products particularly the accommodation sector,” Sir Lester told debate on the 2018 budget.

“This sector has stagnated and declined,” he told members of the Lower House.

Comparing Antigua to St. Lucia, the former tourism minister said, “our tourism has taken a distant second place to St. Lucia.”

He said figures from Castries indicate that the country not only welcomes more stayover visitors but has earned more annually for its economy.

“Our product has stagnated and suffers from inertia or destination fatigue. By this I mean almost every aspect of our sector has stagnated” Bird said.

But he warned against the “negatives” or mass tourism saying that its better to attract high spenders.

“This is why I suggest that the accommodation sector must be dominated by 4-5-star hotels.”

Sir Lester suggested an accommodation capacity of 6000 rooms by 2025 and increase of 2500 rooms in the next seven years.

He also called for a tourism master plan “with a focus of identifying where these rooms will be constructed.”

Bird has called for the establishment of at least five name brand hotels saying that he wants the government to own but not manage at least 1500 of the new rooms.

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  1. He should also insist that the majority of these projects NOT be all inclusive. That’s another aspect that is left out. Hotels that come here, get huge tax concessions for long periods of time, that only hire locals for the jobs at the lower end of the salary spectrum and which keep the tourists locked away inside their estates until it’s time to leave again. This does NOT help the economy in a substantial way.

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