|By Ian Francis, Caribbean News Now, Grand
Cayman IslandsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 28, 2012--As the dying National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Thomas, Burke and Noel continues to fumble in Grenada, their desperation and anxiety continue with the hope of finding resources for pre-election projects and trying to fulfil the budget promises that might not come to fruition. The dream of a five-star hotel is still very much on the mind of the minority administration as opposition leader Dr Keith Mitchell prepares to meet with a group of local business interests including hoteliers to discuss future tourism and other development initiatives in the nation.
In its frantic and desperate quest, the Thomas administration has sidelined the tourism industry by not engaging them about the needs and future growth of the industry. The Thomas minority government is fully aware that the design and operation of a five-star hotel will not eliminate the diverse problems faced by the Grenada tourism industry.
Grenada's dream that the People's Republic of China through Exim Bank will come to the rescue with a five-star loan of $100 million is highly speculative. It re-affirms the growing confusion and different spins being given by the prime minister and his finance minister about the future development of the tri-state as was evidenced during the recent budget debate.
Burke had clearly indicated that funds for the five-star hotels were immediately accessible. Thomas later dismissed the minister's fairy tale by telling Grenadians that negotiations were ongoing but due to the sensitive nature of such discussions, he was not in a position to elaborate. With these two diverse positions, it was quite clear that there was no concrete movement on this initiative.
The recent visit to Grenada by a delegation from by the Peoples' Republic of China Exim Bank was quite interesting. Based on media reports about the discussions held between Grenada and the delegation, it would appear that the Exim Bank has not made a loan commitment to Grenada. The delegation's visit was not exclusively connected to the granting of a loan to build the five-star hotels.
While Grenada raised the possibility of a loan, the Chinese delegation was quick to point out to Finance Minister Burke that any funds for tourism development in Grenada must come from the recent one billion that China has allocated for development in the region. China has urged Grenada to develop projects and have them submitted for consideration.
The Thomas administration's enthusiasm to revive and support the tourism industry is laudable but much more is needed than a five-star hotel. The success of the industry's revival must include a clear government policy on the importation of foreign arts and crafts, which have devastated our once thriving industry amongst the rural population; national revitalization of the agricultural industry; demonstrated capacity and ability of farmers to supply products needed and imposition of controls to limit the import of certain goods, thus allowing less drainage on our meagre foreign reserves, a radical change in our tourism marketing strategies in the global community. In spite of all these suggested initiatives, there must be extensive consultation and inclusion of all relevant stakeholders in the process.
The future success and sustainability of the tourism industry in Grenada will be challenging in light of many existing factors. Foreign visitors have many other options of choice with the same white sand beaches; better transportation availability and of course accommodation cost. Added to the competitive choices, there must be recognition of the fact that tourism marketing must be segmented and strategically planned and implanted.
The rich and well to do tourist now heads for Florida, Arizona, Nevada and many sunshine states where properties and other amenities are affordable. The average struggling professional couples are attracted to Cuba, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and other affordable destinations.
From a Canadian perspective, these travelling trends are very well known within receiving destinations, so they have tailored their marketing efforts to reach such diverse visitors. A radical and fundamental change in Grenada's tourism marketing strategy will also allow for a greater and balanced share of the pie to go to the smaller hotels across the tri-state.
Given all of the engagement between China and Grenada and contrary to the minister of finance's miscalculated enthusiasm about a pending loan from the Exim Bank, it would appear that the five- star hotel development loan will only be considered when a project proposal is submitted and the fund must come from the Regional Caribbean Allocation Fund.
So Grenadians should not patiently await the erection of a five-star hotel that will repair the wrecked Grenadian economy. There is no doubt, the Chinese Embassy in Grenada might be transmitting their daily coded political reports to Beijing telling them to hold off, as the obituary for the Thomas administration will soon be held.
My conclusion, the Chinese will not blindly support a five-star hotel project in Grenada. It is just one more unachievable dream of the administration.
(c)2012 the Caribbean News Now (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands)
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