Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 9: The tourism and economic development issue

What about tourism and the economy?

BRADES, Montserrat, Nov 23, 2015 – Before the volcano crisis struck, tourism contributed up to 20 – 30 percent of the economy.  In recent years it has been about five percent of a much smaller economy. So we see lion no. 6 in the pride of development challenges: tourism and the economy.

For, even though we obviously cannot put all our economy eggs in the tourism basket, tourism is still a major growth opportunity and one of the fastest sectors to get back up and running.

But, just as the proverb about having all our eggs in one basket advises, we must look at o
ther possibilities also. Starting with agriculture, digitally delivered business and financial services, and even perhaps some light industry. Where, tourism includes “educational tourism,” such as through offshore medical schools.

Now, the 2012 draft Montserrat Tourism Development Plan highlights:

“Prior to 1995, tourism was a significant contributor to the economy, representing between 20% and 36% of the national [economic] output (GDP [= Gross Domestic Product]). With the destruction of a considerable proportion of the island’s natural resource base and infrastructure, coupled with concerns about safety, tourism industry was decimated and now accounts for less that 5% of the economy (GDP).

Despite the reduction of available landscape, Montserrat still maintains its distinctive charm, based on the intimacy of its size, the friendliness of its people, the peace & tranquility, safety & security and the relaxed/easy pace of life. The challenge is to build a tourism industry around these fundamental strengths.”

It also notes:

In 2011 there were just over 6,400 stay-over arrivals to Montserrat. In addition there were just under 2,000 excursionists and a similar number of yacht visitors. We estimate total expenditure by visitors to have been about EC$ 17M in 2011, contributing between 3.5% and 5% to the national economy (GDP). The stock of accommodation is just 250 rooms, mostly in villas (146) – virtually the same as a decade ago in 2001.

Since then, while the publicly available data peters out, the on the ground situation suggests that the picture has not been transformed. Poor access, the ferry is too slow (and travels over rough seas), people are usually not comfortable flying on small aircraft. But we know things can be better as St Barths – a similar distance from St Maarten as we are from Antigua and with a notoriously short air strip – has been able to have 200,000 visitors per year. Sure, there are many differences, but there are also enough similarities that we should take notice.

The bottleneck is usually accepted to be access, multiplied by need to develop both product and marketing. For instance, we could focus on our modern-day Pompeii- like buried city, as well as on the natural heritage trail, linked dive sites and perhaps a “cultural/historical heritage trail.” Mix in some “educational tourism” and a cycle of good festivals: Christmas, St Patrick’s, Calabash, Literary and perhaps musical, plus the off-the-beaten-track nature of our community and we may have a viable eco-/adventure- / tranquility tourism mix.  Fixing access, of course, cannot be neglected.

The trick is, once one sector becomes reasonably vibrant, the activity will feed income into the economy as a whole, opening up opportunities and sparking investor confidence. The problem, as always is to find and catch the first “fish.”

Just behind tourism, we should be working on digital access based business and financial services that take advantage of our location between Europe and North America. Light industry is viable, once something like Geothermal electricity helps bring energy costs under control. Indeed, we used to have an electronics assembly factory. Building components, including aerated concrete is a possibility. Doubtless there are more.

For agriculture, Glenn Lewis showed that drip irrigation hydroponics is viable, and there is enough land to look at a forestry possibility using large, fast growing types of bamboo – up to five times as much wood per acre as pine forest, and perhaps a sustainable furniture industry.

And more, all backed by enterprise incubation, small venture capital financing and mentoring, with assistance in marketing through an online Montserrat Mall.

Yet again, we have the St Helena £ 250 million airport project as a yardstick, we have means and opportunity. So, if not now, then when – and why? END

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What about tourism and the economy?

BRADES, Montserrat, Nov 23, 2015 – Before the volcano crisis struck, tourism contributed up to 20 – 30 percent of the economy.  In recent years it has been about five percent of a much smaller economy. So we see lion no. 6 in the pride of development challenges: tourism and the economy.

For, even though we obviously cannot put all our economy eggs in the tourism basket, tourism is still a major growth opportunity and one of the fastest sectors to get back up and running.

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But, just as the proverb about having all our eggs in one basket advises, we must look at o
ther possibilities also. Starting with agriculture, digitally delivered business and financial services, and even perhaps some light industry. Where, tourism includes “educational tourism,” such as through offshore medical schools.

Now, the 2012 draft Montserrat Tourism Development Plan highlights:

“Prior to 1995, tourism was a significant contributor to the economy, representing between 20% and 36% of the national [economic] output (GDP [= Gross Domestic Product]). With the destruction of a considerable proportion of the island’s natural resource base and infrastructure, coupled with concerns about safety, tourism industry was decimated and now accounts for less that 5% of the economy (GDP).

Despite the reduction of available landscape, Montserrat still maintains its distinctive charm, based on the intimacy of its size, the friendliness of its people, the peace & tranquility, safety & security and the relaxed/easy pace of life. The challenge is to build a tourism industry around these fundamental strengths.”

It also notes:

In 2011 there were just over 6,400 stay-over arrivals to Montserrat. In addition there were just under 2,000 excursionists and a similar number of yacht visitors. We estimate total expenditure by visitors to have been about EC$ 17M in 2011, contributing between 3.5% and 5% to the national economy (GDP). The stock of accommodation is just 250 rooms, mostly in villas (146) – virtually the same as a decade ago in 2001.

Since then, while the publicly available data peters out, the on the ground situation suggests that the picture has not been transformed. Poor access, the ferry is too slow (and travels over rough seas), people are usually not comfortable flying on small aircraft. But we know things can be better as St Barths – a similar distance from St Maarten as we are from Antigua and with a notoriously short air strip – has been able to have 200,000 visitors per year. Sure, there are many differences, but there are also enough similarities that we should take notice.

The bottleneck is usually accepted to be access, multiplied by need to develop both product and marketing. For instance, we could focus on our modern-day Pompeii- like buried city, as well as on the natural heritage trail, linked dive sites and perhaps a “cultural/historical heritage trail.” Mix in some “educational tourism” and a cycle of good festivals: Christmas, St Patrick’s, Calabash, Literary and perhaps musical, plus the off-the-beaten-track nature of our community and we may have a viable eco-/adventure- / tranquility tourism mix.  Fixing access, of course, cannot be neglected.

The trick is, once one sector becomes reasonably vibrant, the activity will feed income into the economy as a whole, opening up opportunities and sparking investor confidence. The problem, as always is to find and catch the first “fish.”

Just behind tourism, we should be working on digital access based business and financial services that take advantage of our location between Europe and North America. Light industry is viable, once something like Geothermal electricity helps bring energy costs under control. Indeed, we used to have an electronics assembly factory. Building components, including aerated concrete is a possibility. Doubtless there are more.

For agriculture, Glenn Lewis showed that drip irrigation hydroponics is viable, and there is enough land to look at a forestry possibility using large, fast growing types of bamboo – up to five times as much wood per acre as pine forest, and perhaps a sustainable furniture industry.

And more, all backed by enterprise incubation, small venture capital financing and mentoring, with assistance in marketing through an online Montserrat Mall.

Yet again, we have the St Helena £ 250 million airport project as a yardstick, we have means and opportunity. So, if not now, then when – and why? END