Honourable Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Mr. Rodinald Soomer CEO, CARIOM Development Fund signing the Grant Agreement
On Thursday September 3rd, 2020, the CEO of the CARICOM Development Fund, Mr. Rodinald Soomer signed a Grant Agreement with Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Honourable Allen Chastanet, to provide a sum of US$935,663 or approximately EC$2.5 million to finance critical tourism infrastructure in communities in St. Lucia that have been earmarked to benefit from the Government of Saint Lucia’s Village Tourism Initiative (VTI).
The objective of the VTI is the diversification and enhancement of Saint Lucia’s community tourism product and the consequential broadening of opportunities for small and medium sized tourism-related businesses to contribute to the growth and participate in the benefits of a more vibrant and inclusive tourism industry. The programme is designed to foster more balanced socio-economic development, by supporting enterprise development in village communities, while offering authentic visitor experiences, resulting in increased local value added and visitor expenditure, increased rural employment opportunities, poverty reduction and overall betterment in the quality of life of Saint Lucians participating in the programme.
Successful implementation of the Village Tourism strategy requires investment in quality community infrastructure and expansion of activities that are primary drivers of tourism activity, including homestays, small hotels and guest houses, restaurants, bars and shops, all of which would embrace the unique socio-cultural attributes and architectural vernacular of the target locations. VTI will provide a suite of centralised services to assist small and medium sized businesses with improved access to affordable finance, expertise to assist with business planning and development, adoption of international health and safety and other product quality standards, targeted training and marketing support under a unified brand.
In November 2017, the CDF considered and approved initial grant funding of US$120,000 for technical assistance to develop a roadmap and to create a business plan for the Village Tourism Programme. The Cabinet of Saint Lucia in November 2019 subsequently approved the Village Tourism Policy, paving the way for commencement of implementation in target communities, starting with the pilot communities of Gros Islet, Soufriere, and Anse La Raye, with a plan to expand to other areas. This pilot phase of the programme will be implemented by the Ministry of Tourism with the support of the Tourism Advisory Council.
The CDF grant for the VTI will be utilized to undertake infrastructure development and upgrades in the three pilot communities, as well as to develop human resource capacity geared towards achieving service excellence. This investment is to be complemented by a concessional loan financing component, also to be provided by the CDF, to support business development for tourism-related SMEs providing products and services aligned with the VTI. This loan facility will be administered by the Saint Lucia Development Bank (SLDB).
The VTI forms the second component of the Country Assistance Programme (CAP) for St. Lucia under the CDF’s second funding Cycle. The first component was the financing of a National Export Development Strategy (NEDS) for Saint Lucia implemented by Export Saint Lucia, which was successfully completed in 2019. The St. Lucia CAP is consistent with the mandate of the CDF as set out in Article 158 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the Agreement Relating to the Operation of the CARICOM Development Fund, to provide technical and financial assistance to disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors participating in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). It is also consistent with two of the CDF’s second cycle thematic funding priorities of increasing enterprise competitiveness and the development of human resource capacity.