President of the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association (DHTA) Gregor Nassief, believes that the country’s goal of achieving 90,000 stay-over visitors by the end of 2015 is easier said than done.
He opines that if such target is to be realized, the Tourism Master Plan must be fully implemented.
“There is a great blue print, that is the Master Plan, which was finalized and approved in 2013 on how to move the industry forward and unfortunately many things in the Master Plan that we should be doing, we have not done,” he told DNO.
The goal was set after consultants who attended a tourism summit here in 2013 said Dominica must increase its stay-over visitors to 90,000 by 2015 if it is to remain sustainable in the tourism industry.
To reach the goal the island must increase its rate of stay-overs by seven percent per year.
But according to Nassief, reaching the goal is going to be very difficult.
“So while we go for our goals of 90,000 at the end of 2015, it is actually unlikely we will be able to achieve it and what is important is not to wait until January 2016 and ask why we have not achieved it and to realize from now that it would be very, very difficult to achieve it,” he stated.
Nassief said that basic things that the Master Plan called for such as marketing investment to be between $8.5 to $12-million ““is not actually being done and we really need to be focused on trying to follow the Plan.”
The price tag for marketing Dominica currently stands at an average of $4-million annually.
Nassief said a number of issues need to be addressed including vagrancy, crime, the tedious visitor experience at the ferry terminal, improving the visitor’s and investors’ experience, increased number of quality hotel rooms and optimizing the schedules from the island’s seven hubs of Antigua, St. Maarteen, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, Barbados and San Juan.
Nassief is hoping that this year some significant headway is made in improving the sector and one of DHTA’s goals, he said, is to establish a common vision with the public sector, specifically with the ministry of tourism, to work in strong partnership to achieve change.
He commended moves towards more “improved and more convenient air lift to Dominica,” and the government’s decision to repeal VAT on the service charge on accommodations.
He said the DHTA has been pushing for VAT removal on meals to employees and rooms for the travel trade that hotels have been forced to pay for years.