June 7, 2007



I am always very happy when individuals involved in business or voluntary service get together to organize themselves with the formation of an association. After much disruption and almost chaos on the Reduit Beach, the vendors finally decided to come together to ensure that they speak with one voice.

The Tourism Services Providers Association was officially launched in the Lantana Room at Bay Gardens Hotel, Rodney Bay on Monday, June 4, 2007 when two groups of vendors came together and decided to have a unified approach in dealing with the several issues that challenge their continued existence to pursue their livelihood on the beach.
Messrs Vincent Augustin and John Honora spearheaded the promotion of the association and received the support of the vendors to the point where about 30 vendors paid their membership fee in full. This commitment to ensuring that the association is financially viable demonstrates the seriousness and urgency of the members to meet the challenges which augurs well for the future of the association.

The meeting was addressed by the organizers, Messrs Augustin and Honora, the Guest Speaker – Mr. Colin Hunte, President of the St. Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association (SLHTA) and Edward Harris, Representative of the St. Lucia Industrial & Small Business Association (SLISBA) who also performed the duties of Returning Officer.

Mr. Hunte, apart from being the President of SLHTA is the operator of Villa Beach Cottages at Choc Bay. He shared information on the state of the industry which is currently experiencing a decline in visitors’ arrivals, most significantly from the region, and his own experiences as a Hotelier. He exhorted the vendors to give the visitors a great shopping/service experience – hassle free and expressed the need for training to equip vendors to provide the best possible service.

The Reduit Beach main access area is slated for major developments in the near future and the timing of the Association couldn’t be better. The association will be engaged in lots of discussions in the coming months. Advocacy and lobbying will be important to ensure that the playing field is level and some of the existing vendors are not displaced. It was noted that the issuing of licences to operate on the beach is suspended and vendors are anxious to know the future direction of the licencing agency. It was also disclosed at the meeting that the Crown Agents and the National Conservation Authority are supportive of the Association.

With the establishment of the association, new possibilities will be available to members to participate in saving schemes such as credit union, bulk buying, group insurance, training, etc.. Even a website to promote the various offers by vendors could be considered. The future looks great. It is for the members to seize the moment.

The results of the elections were as follows:
President – John Honora, Vice President – Vincent Augustin (both unopposed), Secretary – Berlinda Biscette, Treasurer – Gris Ferdinand, Committee Members – Laurent John, Leon Francois and Susan Lionel.

The Caribbean Development Bank is collaborating with the Caribbean Association of Indigenous Banks Inc. and the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation to host a Training Course in St. Lucia during the period, June 11-15, 2007 on “Improving SME Financing”. It is hoped that this training will not be in the same old vein of conservative banking practices but rather for participating institutions to step out of the box and provide the type of facilities to SMEs that are in keeping with today’s business realities.

I humbly suggest that the current manner in which banks close the coffin on their customers must change. The bank must support their customers to succeed, not to fail as is presently practiced. Let me share with you a real life example of the environment in which businesspersons operate. A business persons found an ideal location and set up a particular type of business only to discover in a few days that two similar businesses were about to be opened within close proximity. It is simple to conclude that what was projected as a viable business got its customer base reduced and for the period that competition raged, the first business because of the level of investment was forced to close in the first quarter. Is that businessperson a failure?

The first investor secured the loan with substantial property as collateral – several acres of land in a location that suited the development of middle income residential homes. The investor went to the banker, discusses the status of the failed business and put forward a proposal to develop the land. What do you think would be the normal response? Many times the banker would be preoccupied with recovering the initial loan. It is sad but many times when a businessperson’s death is pronounced, there is still the breath of life in him/her but who cares. This is just one example. I am pleading that bankers will be more amenable to looking favourably at cost overruns and extending existing loans to accommodate changes when a switch to a new business is necessary. With or without security given the right circumstances a business should be saved from going under. That is the new breed of bankers that the region awaits to welcome!

Here is an internet marketing tip. Visit http://www.mypowermall.com/biz/home/9843

Keep the faith, God is in Charge, expect Miracles in 2007!

Edward A. Harris
Email: eaharrisdestiny@gmail.com
Websites: http://www.edwardharris.ws http://www.stluciasimplybeautiful.com http://www.stluciarealtors.com http://www.groups.yahoo.com/group/edalharris

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