Gems of Saint Lucia officially launched the Canadian arm of Gems in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, on April 24th, 2014. The concept was embraced by key stakeholders within the Canadian community, the international community and the Saint Lucian community in Ottawa. The key speakers at the event were Kevin Carrol, Managing Director of Innovation at Invest Ottawa, Consul General for Saint Lucia, Mr. Michael Willius based in Toronto, Francisco Jn Pierre, President of the Southern Taxi Association, in Saint Lucia, Wilson Jn Baptiste, CEO of Gems of Saint Lucia and Magdalene Cooman, Gem’s new Director of Operations. The audience was a receptive group of professionals from 30 different countries across the world, including Canada and members of various corporate organizations such as the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, Royal Bank of Canada and the Asian Leadership Network, an affinity group of TD Canada.
The primary mission of Gems of Saint Lucia is to identify tourism products which are owned and managed by indigenous people on the island. The goal is to increase occupancy levels during the slow season, for that sector, which has neither the financial capacity nor the human resources to engage in overseas marketing, individually. This goal will be achieved through the creation of marketing consulting teams, globally, involving St. Lucians and friends of St. Lucia. The three main market segments targeted are students and professors, entrepreneurs and professionals.
Kevin Carroll, Managing Director of Innovation at Invest Ottawa, congratulated Gems of Saint Lucia and endorsed the marketing concept “Marketing is everybody’s business” and also the goals of developing the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for enhancing the cultural and heritage sites in St. Lucia. Kevin believes that the development of the entrepreneurial skills at the grassroots level is one of the most effective ways of distributing wealth in small islands. He went on further to say that once the tide for the entrepreneur rises, everyone rises with it. Kevin has agreed to meet with the executive team of Gems of Saint Lucia to develop strategies whereby Invest Ottawa will be sharing the entrepreneurial knowledge of retired executives with the owners of the cultural and heritage sites on the island. The goal is to bring down to Saint Lucia retired executives to assist the owners of these cultural and heritage sites to commodify their cultural and heritage sites and bring them to a state of market readiness. While this strategy will not compromise the authenticity of the assets, it will however, bring about greater economic benefits to the owners.
The Consul General of Saint Lucia to Canada, Mr. Michael Willius, expressed his distinct pleasure at being at the official launch of Gems of Saint Lucia and acknowledged the work which the current government is playing in the development of the tourism industry as a powerful catalyst for economic diversification, job creation, re-distribution of wealth and poverty eradication in Saint Lucia. Consul General Willius went on to explain: “Our goal is to take tourism in Saint Lucia to a whole new level and harness the huge potential of this sector to generate sustainable jobs and much needed foreign exchange. With limited government resources this goal is not a small one, and the Saint Lucian Diaspora is an important and integral part of the plan, contributing to Saint Lucia’s tourism sector, both as visitors to the island, and, of equal importance, as ambassadors for Saint Lucia. It cannot be denied that the Diaspora is indeed uniquely placed to play a pivotal role in serving as advocates in the marketplace for Saint Lucia’s tourism sector, and as such, must be included as an integral tourism partner and stakeholder in the marketing of our island.”
He further went on to say: “The Gems of Saint Lucia initiative is therefore, a great opportunity for nationals living within the Diaspora to play their part in this government’s ongoing efforts to sell Saint Lucia’s tourism product.”
Saint Lucia is already very well perceived by the media as an ideal destination for honeymoons and weddings. However, Saint Lucia currently has only one office in Toronto and the Gems of Saint Lucia, through its marketing strategy “Marketing Is Everybody’s Business” will increase the island’s visibility as well as the visibility of the islands cultural and heritage products.
Mr. Francisco Jn Pierre was a true inspiration to the audience as he shared the partnership success between Southern Taxi Association and Gems of Saint Lucia, a relationship which has been strongly rooted over the last five years. Mr. Jn. Pierre started by saying:
“When Wilson first introduced the concept to me, I saw this as an opportunity to market the Southern Taxi Association and the indigenous products on the island.”
Mr. Jn. Pierre further informed the audience: “Southern Taxi Association is the largest Taxi Association on the island and is based at Hewanorra International. The association works with all hotels and tour operators and is the first point of contact. St. Lucia can no longer rely on sea, sun and sand. We must diversify our products.” Mr. Jn. Pierre told the audience that very often tourist who travel with him in his taxi have expressed that they want to do what locals do and not what visitors do. As a result, the island has to develop products to satisfy that need. Mr. Jn. Pierre said that he saw an opportunity for his association by partnering with Gems of Saint Lucia. He firmly believes that when Gems of Saint Lucia succeeds, Southern Taxi Association succeeds.
Gems of Saint Lucia and Southern Taxi Association have engaged in corporate outreach events by partnering in FAM trips by students and a St. Lucian group, soccer clinic in Vieux Fort and toy drives for the children of Vieux Fort. Mr. Jn Pierre shared the recent experience of working with Gems of Saint Lucia-an experience which involved four countries to meet the needs on a group of tourists, within 24 hours on the island.Magdalene, Gems Director of Operations, received a Facebook message from a friend in Kenya one evening about 3:00 p.m indicating that her son was in Saint Lucia and needed someone to give him and his 7 member crew, a one day tour the next day. Magdalene quickly contacted Wilson in New York who got in touch with Francisco in Saint Lucia to explore the possibilities of organizing a tour. Through Facebook, all travel arrangements were made for the group within a few hours. Southern Taxi Association was able to respond quickly, efficiently and professionally. Quick and efficient connectivity is vital in providing a great customer service across several countries.
Wilson Jn Baptiste made his presentation by explaining that the Gems of Saint Lucia has a special focus on cultural and heritage sites in Saint Lucia and its marketing strategy goes beyond marketing Saint Lucia as a destination for sea, sand and sun. The highlight of Jn. Baptiste’s presentation was Gems Treasures. He described these treasures as authentic products in a culturally rich environment, charmingly simple or unsophisticated, owned and controlled by the indigenous people, located in the country side and are rustic in nature. This is the focus of the Gems marketing strategy as Saint Lucia has a rich cultural heritage which makes it an ideal destination for spring breaks and bringing in visitors to experience the islands authentic tourism products. Jn. Baptiste also went on to discuss the structure of the Gems marketing team and the tripod which drives it: Entrepreneurs, Professionals and Students and Professors. He explained that each leg of the tripod will promote the Gems to the segment with which they are more familiar.Jn. Baptiste informed the audience of the benefits of being a member of the Gems marketing team. He emphasized that direct economic benefits will accrue to the population in the rural districts through job creation and the consumption of local products. In addition, he stated that there will be less reliance on remittances leaving marketers with more disposable income for investment.
Ms Magdalene Cooman completed the presentation by introducing Gems Corporate Outreach which is an integral part of Gems long term strategy in giving back to the community. For 2014 – 2015, the focus is on working with corporate partners to expand the Gems Soccer Clinic to a 2 week program in the south of the island by working with local sports administrators and expanding it with resources from Canada and the United States. Gems will be launching its Gems Writing and Photography Competition in Summer 2014 and along with several other festivals, will also launch a special Gemscapade in November 2014, targeted at bringing a group of professionals to Saint Lucia to experience the islands cultural and heritage sites.
The strong bond between Saint Lucia and Canada has been a result of the personal relationship between the late Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Sir John Compton and the late Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau. They both attended the London School of Economics and were Prime Ministers at the same time. Saint Lucia received assistance from Canada in the form of the construction of Hewanorra International Airport, schools and scholarships from the Canadian International Development Agency. We hope that through tourism we will re-kindle this bond by increasing the number of Canadians visiting Saint Lucia to enjoy the island’s culture and heritage.
Gems of Saint Lucia would like to thank all those who have contributed towards Gems of Saint Lucia over the last few years and who have believed and supported the concept. Special thanks to Jet Blue, Eden Herb Products, Coconut Bay, Rex Resort, St. Lucia Tourist Board, Southern Taxi Association, 4th World, the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and Invest Ottawa. We look forward to greater collaboration and building a strong network of Saint Lucians and friends of Saint Lucia to support Saint Lucia. You can read more about Gems of Saint Lucia and upcoming activities by visiting our website: www.gemsofsaintlucia.com; following us on Facebook and on Twitter.
The Caribbean is the world’s most tourism dependent region. The tourism industry forms the economic backbone of most countries in the region by being the major foreign exchange earner, employment source and contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Tourism is the main source of income and the island’s biggest employer. Saint Lucia has demonstrated its willingness to develop its tourism by setting policies to encourage domestic and International tourists as well as trade liberalization in tourism services.