Soufriere is not a new player in global tourism; however its challenge is to retain profitability while holding onto a relevant share of visitors who travel near and far to visit a gem nestled in the heart of the Caribbean.
As we know, Soufriere has world renowned landmarks, local products and success stories to take the helm in heritage tourism. This would do two things well. First, surround the entire people and geography of Soufriere as part and parcel of this concept and second, put the economic equilibrium on parity, with each one contributing as partners.
Soufriere has a lot to offer the visitor and enthusiastic traveller. From the iconic English and French architecture, heritage and culture to outdoor adventure and leisure attractions, where everyone can come and experience, share, explore and discover. But if Soufriere, the Mecca of tourism, is to retain its place in global tourism, building world class attractions to further showcase pillars of strength has to merge comparatively to lure wealthy investors to engage in business investments and create jobs.
Soufriere is relatively without comparison and completely poised to complement a modern environment serving as a place to live, work and raise a family. Every day there is something new to experience, a new adventure and a new phase to absorb. However to benefit from this opportunity will require residents and professionals working towards the tangible vision of heritage tourism within a structured plan.
Residents and professionals can capitalise on increased tourism arrivals and build on the increased market share for business travellers. The economic impact would be significant since Soufriere is an important site and previously a French colonial capital.
Soufriere should not be promoted as a place for sale, developing gated communities with expansive ocean views and restricting its residents to the beaches and attractions. Residents are getting angry about that. On the other hand, tours to selected sites pass through the town and waterfronts of Soufriere, oftentimes gazing in utter admiration at the natural surroundings, with little to no interaction with residents, while visiting motorists navigate narrow streets reading maps and destination signs; a professed art form.
From a historical context, Soufriere has played a significant role in keeping Saint Lucia’s tourism, law, commerce and politics on the map. However, the economic return to facilitate future fortification is microscopic and grossly marginalized.
In many ways, greater alertness and flexibility is needed to meet current and future demands without delay, to leverage opportunities in emerging markets. That’s the way it should be!
Instead, the disclosure by the Member of Parliament for Soufriere/Fond St Jacque Harold Dalson, minister for social transformation, local government and community empowerment to render more of the same traditional methods to solve the lack of economic opportunity and the high cost of living that’s driving unemployment in Soufriere seems a fool’s hope. And, this points, to the politics of fear and the politics of trust [mistrust], to bring in new money to revitalize a dormant economy.
February 6th 2015 Unemployment in Soufriere RI
As John Donne wrote, “Reason is our soul’s left hand, Faith her right.” Fear and mistrust has diminished our leaders’ role in decision making, thus jeopardizing our society, between real threats and deceptive logic. Thus eroding elementary transformation of the possibilities to translate new ideas, with experience focused methods to optimize success and profitability.
“Complex problems have simple, easy to understand, wrong answers.” – Henry Louis Mencken.
The same is true in the absence of trusted institutions to balance the mechanics of business and the exercise of government authority [to avert the intoxication of power] that allows for checks and balances, accountability and results. But, the continued willingness and incompetence to do otherwise, essentially erodes the ability to shift perceptions locally and internationally and to take advantage of organizational competence, to make insightful and meaningful decisions that generate solutions for sustained leadership.
With that, the Soufriere Regional Development Foundation (SRDF) organization strategies that manage avenues to economic growth alongside the tourism assets of Soufriere – the Pitons, the Sulphur Springs, the Soufriere waterfront, infrastructure development, communication technology and linkages with agriculture is often inadequate. Similarly, the continuation of the pass-through marketing initiative that shuttles visitors through Soufriere by land and sea to various attractions needs immediate retooling to create a shared experience for residents.
To accomplish great rewards for tourism in Soufriere, these and other issues need to be thought out, planned, and presented instead of harbouring shadow silos, concocted hype and individual stunts with the assistance of semi-government organizations. These are hindrances to growth and development, in terms of Saint Lucia’s gross domestic product (GDP).
With tourism as the mainstay of Saint Lucia’s economy, building a common future on renewed collective action for the benefit of jobs and growth requires the practical prospects of heritage tourism to balance out the inequity equation in Soufriere. Closing that gap will require the development of more effective policy frameworks to meet the macro goals.
Obviously this is not within the ambit of the current occupying political powers of the SRDF and, as is widely known, their ability to influence growth strategies by implementing initiatives already established, in order to put residents to work for the redevelopment of Soufriere, is extravagant.
Moving forward, Soufriere needs to obtain greater access throughout the value chain of tomorrow’s ideas in shifting visitor perception, building quality infrastructure in an ambitious new plan for the Soufriere waterfront, preserving and improving product development, identifying new growth strategies with the option to incentivize investments for further international exposure.
A very fundamental approach is to raise capital and stimulate both public and private sector investment. But, right now, and as long as the bad actors continue the job of self-policing, the odds are fairly low to entice high net worth individuals and capital assets (such as land, stocks, bonds, etc.) to engage in free enterprise.
In so doing, it goes beyond an urgent prerequisite to reform a broken institution like the SRDF, and set-up a corporation for Soufriere tourism, a council for the economic development of Soufriere and essential marketing components to bring quality choices to travellers and economic viability to a wider cross section of Soufriere and Saint Lucia respectively.
Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant. He is an advocate for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality; the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) www.lpmstlucia.com critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org