Friday 15 November, 2019

Are the Soleil Summer Festivals relevant? - Hilaire

South Castries Member of Parliament, Ernest Hilaire has taken issue with the series of events known as the Soleil Summer of Festivals which is scheduled to kick off later this year than it did last year.

Hilaire at a news conference questioned the relevance of the programme based on the poor showing of visitors to these festivals last year.

Designed by the Allen Chastanet administration on entering office in June 2016, the Soleil Summer of Festivals was aimed at bringing more visitors to the island and having them stay longer with festivals altogether lasting almost nine to 10 months.

Hilaire said that the Food and Rum Festival, which was held in January of last year, had only a 3.5 per cent increase in visitors compared to 2017. Also recording an increase of 2.7 per cent was the jazz festival held in May with 841 more visitors compared to 2017.

Hilaire said that Carnival, held in July, registered a decline in visitors of 1.2 per cent. Also registering a decline of 6.5 per cent was the Roots and Soul Festival held in September and the Arts and Heritage Festival, held in October, of 7.1 per cent. An increase of 3.3 per cent was recorded for CPL Cricket and Mercury Beach combined.

“From these figures, is the Soleil Summer Festivals achieving its stated objectives as announced by the Prime Minister? Can the Minister (Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee) explain to us why stay-over arrivals are decreasing during these Festivals? The record is clear and very instructive. Those events have no positive impact on our visitor flows, which raises the big question about their relevance and the recent realignment with the Tourism Authority. I eagerly await a report on how much those events are costing the taxpayers of this country, for the seemingly negligible benefits,” Hilaire said.

Loop News made an effort to ascertain from the Saint Lucia Tourism Association whether the figures quoted by Hilaire were accurate, however, our efforts were futile.

Meanwhile, St. Lucia Jazz, dated May 5 – 12, will jump-start this year’s Soleil’s summer programme, unlike the Food and Rum Festival which was first on the agenda last year. It has been pushed to number five (September 19 – 22) on the list of six festivals listed for this year under the programme.

The other festivals listed for this year are Saint Lucia Carnival with a June/July schedule culminating July 12 – 16, Mercury Fest scheduled for August 9 – 19, Saint Lucia Roots and Soul dated for August 23 – 25 and Saint Lucia Arts and Heritage with October 18 – 20 as the scheduled dates. Jounen Kweyol, which is all part of the October festival will be held on the 27th.

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