|By Jean H Charles
My own empirical survey has revealed that there are nine hot spots in the world that have been created by God with unusual attention to the details. Those spots have gorgeous mountains, deep valleys, and celestial views. They are Hawaii, Dominica, Tobago, Spain, Switzerland, Haiti, St Lucia and some principalities such as Vail in Colorado and Bali in Indonesia. These sites represent natural wonders irrespective of what men have made out of them. There are places like Haiti where the natives and their government have not gotten their act together to enrich their God legacy and than there is St Lucia, where the government, the people, the developers and the tourists are all combined to create and maintain the perfect paradise on earth.
|Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to build a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org|
I flew to St Lucia with Air Jamaica, a delightful experience for my first encounter with that airline. I have received an invitation to attend the Media Exchange XI full summit on Sustainable Tourism. The organization is made of writers, government officials, hotels owners, public relations persons and students interested in Tourism in the Caribbean. Under the able hand of the producer of the Conference, Bevan Springer, the group regaled itself in some of the finest hotels in St Lucia such as: Sandals, Royal St Lucian, Almond Smugglers Cove, Bay Garden Resorts and others.
We pained ourselves in delving into the future of tourism in the Caribbean. How the cruise ships can keep their market share, while protecting the fragile ecosystem of their ports of call. How the small hotels can compete with the brand names facilities. How the governments can engage themselves in making their places as hospitable as possible for their own citizens while elaborating an ambitious tourism industry program.
This last question was put forth and answered to my satisfaction by a group of students, in particular a young lady from St Lucia, attending college in Canada. I have added my two cents contribution by sharing the story of my own backyard in Queens. I enjoy, every morning (during the summer) cleaning the yard after my morning exercise, putting the flowers at their right place. To my amazement, all the birds of the neighborhood insist on visiting and congregating in my yard instead of regaling themselves on both sides of the fence in my neighbor’s place. The morale of the story is: make your country as beautiful and as hospitable as you can for your own people, the tourists will flock in, as icing on the cake.
It was not all labor intensive at the Conference. We took time for a cruise to the south of the island stopping and dining at the Jade Mountain, an eighth man made wonder of the world.
Imagine living in a majestic hotel facing the two Pitons with a divine view, at your feet your own swimming pool right in your bedroom, all wide open with the nature as you backdrop and with a furniture designed to soothe the environment and your personal comfort!
St Lucia is fortunate to have been led during a long time by a gentle founding father, Sir John Compton who put his stamp on the mores and the ethos of the res politica and in the mind of the people. I took a long ride this time by road to the south of the country with the Minister of Tourism, Mr Allen Chastanet. I was very impressed with the sensibility and the concern of the Senator- Minister for his people. We stopped at a magnificent vista near Micou where the Minister conferred with the villagers in building a scenic rest station with a restaurant owned and managed by the villagers. This demarche was in the context of the village tourism coined by the Minister.
We were attending a political rally to celebrate the victory of the daughter of the late Prime Minister as a Senator. Allan was his own driver, with no security guard. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet were also at the political rally with no visible sign of security retinue. They were there, with their “mamaille” happy to be with them, in communion with their people.
I have started with the Minister of Tourism, the process of the negotiation for developing a sister-sister relationship between Grande Riviere St.Lucia and Grande Riviere Haiti (my home town). We have a lot to learn from and contribute to each other. Grande Riviere produces some magnificent children’s toy furniture such as the little chairs that can be used to rest the Creole dolls. They can wholesale those products to the people of Grande Riviere St Lucia for the tourist industry in the area.
Grande Riviere, St Lucia can teach the Haitian politicians, in particular the Senators, that cruising with six to eight security guards is an ego trip exercise detrimental to the good of the country. It is not conducive to a gentler and kinder island.
St Lucia is certainly on the move. During the week that I visited the country there was:
- the Kalalo Music Festival, an international gathering of musicians producing their music for the enchantment of the audience. It was like a mini Creole Music Festival such as that being produced in Dominica. Except, it was gentler and kinder.
- the ARC, the transatlantic crossing of the yachts between the pond of Europe and America reaching St Lucia as their final destination.
- the launch of the Raffles resort and residential development stamping the confidence of the developers in the future of St Lucia.
- and there was the first brick in the construction of the Residence at Ritz Carlton St Lucia in the island’s south, signaling the beginning of the development of that part of the island.
St Lucia is also a paradise on earth, with its flaws. I have seen them; they are not in St Lucia but in the Diaspora. My encounter at the consulate with the receptionist could have been more pleasant, in tune with the mood of the country. I had to visit with my own consul who called the St Lucian Consulate to help me secure a visa. (I was told it would take me two weeks to process a visa.) The St Lucia consul was gracious and courteous. I got my visa on the spot. I saw a Russian woman with a US green card, obligated to secure a visa because her cruise ship will stop in St Lucia for one day.
There is certainly the need to review this measure so as not to inconvenience all the good people of the world who want to enjoy a one day visit in this enchanting island. In the meantime, I will create any excuse to come back to St Lucia. I have visited Paradise, my body and my soul is yearning for an encore.