Caribbean Media Exchange CMEX Conference a resounding success!!!

   The sixth Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism Conference held in St. Lucia June 24 – 27, 2004 was a major publicity blitz for St. Lucia’s Tourism product. The four days of activities which was organized by Counterpart International and Counterpart Caribbean brought together Journalists and persons involved at all levels of the tourism industry. The programme of activities commenced with a welcome Opening Reception at the OASIS in the Le Sport property was addressed by Hon. Philip J. Pierre, Minister of Commerce, Tourism, Investment and Consumer Affairs and ended with a Gala Awards Dinner Banquet at the Sandals Grande.

   The Hon. Dr. Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister addressed the conference opening session. The speech by the Prime Minister was well received with several remarks made by speakers who followed about his commitment to the tourism industry.

   It was an action packed progamme that saw delegates in serious sessions at the Bay Gardens Conference Centre, Rodney Bay, with lunches at leading hotels such as the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort and the Royal St. Lucian to experience their cuisine along with trips to various places where they were able to experience the natural beauty of the Helen of the West Indies - Simply Beautiful!

   The conference sessions received presentations from leaders in the industry. Topics included, ie: Tourism Economic Impact. Talk Back Live – Exploring Unique Linkages which saw Bobby Vieira of Multicultural Radio – Voice of the Caribbean, NY reaching out to the world, streaming Live on the Internet, Renewable Energy: Save Money, Save the World, The Impact of HIV/AIDS on Sustainable Tourism, Tourism, People, and Partnerships: Issues of Governance, etc. The Keynote Luncheon Speakers included Honourable Gordon Butch Stewart, Chairman of Sandals Resorts/Air Jamaica who spoke at the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort on the topic – Caribbean Tourism: Unleashing its Potential.

   There were some serious discussions which revealed an unfortunate situation where operators in the tourism sector feel that the industry is not getting the recognition it deserves from policy makers of the region. There is the issue of cruise tourism versus land base tourism where almost everyone believes that the cruise sector is getting a free ride. There was a call for a unified approach by the Governments of the region to deal with the cruise sector. Taxation of products served in the tourism industry was raised and a call was made to lower taxes on liquor especially Champagne and Wines. A serious challenge remains to get the poor of the various communities involved in the economic activities related to the industry.

   An important Report on the Tourism Industry was presented by Representative of the World Travel & Tourism Council entitled, The Caribbean – The Impact of Travel & Tourism on Jobs and the Economy. This report is a statistical revelation and should dispel any doubts as to the impact of tourism on the economy.

   Everything was well organised, conference sessions, tours, cultural presentations, etc.. The Blessing Ceremony of the Coco Palm now under construction was an interesting part of the programme. It is a show of confidence by the Chastanet family in the hotel sector and the hope that the current difficulties affecting the industry will soon be resolved.

      The programme of activities presented hoteliers with a unique opportunity to network with Journalists and the industry leaders. I am confident that the experiences gained in St. Lucia will linger in the minds of our guests and as result our beautiful island will be in the tourism destination spotlight for a long time.

   I look forward to reading some of the stories that will emanate from the great experience that was CMEx St. Lucia. The expression of total satisfaction was on the faces of everyone. Mrs. Berthia Parle, President of the Caribbean Hotel Association should be particularly happy with the success of the conference as it demonstrated the positive posture of hoteliers operating in St. Lucia.

   The CMEx Conference activities afforded me the opportunity to meet a friend from boyhood days whom I had not seen in 15 years and interestingly apart from being an outstanding Black Entrepreneur on Flatbush Avenue in the State of New York, he is also involved with the publishing business - Caribbean Impact newspaper. We have already begun to share articles.

   Congratulations to Mr. Lelei LeLalu, President & CEO of Counterpart International and Dr. Basil Springer, Chairman of Counterpart Caribbean and members of their teams for a job well done.

   Further good news came on Wednesday, June 30, 2004 just after the CMEx Conference that the site of the Pitons is now designated a World Heritage Site. This is a further boost to our expanding heritage tourism product.

   Keep the Faith – God is in Charge!