The Story of Gems of Saint Lucia
What makes a 25 year old Vieux-Fortian, with a steady job as an Accountant at Halcyon Days Hotel, leave his homeland to study tourism which he believed then, and still believes now, would be a solution to the island of Saint Lucia?
"Working in the Hotel industry always inspired me. I love tourism and I wanted to be be in a position to contribute towards the development of my island. I believed that many of the problems facing his island and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) can be solved through tourism. However, I also understood that the very same tourism industry which has the capacity to solve problems, if not managed properly, can create more problems than it actually found on a destination." Wilson Jn Baptiste, CEO of Gems of Saint Lucia.
"My motivation for studying and the main question I have been asking myself throughout my journey from doing an Asscociates to a Masters in Tourism Management was, 'How then can tourism bring about greater benefits than the costs and problems it creates on a destination?''
Here, Wilson explains his journey in developing Gems of Saint Lucia.
First off, the difference between developed countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is the number, quality and durability of ideas generated by its citizens. However, the generation and execution of ideas can also create fear in states that have not yet embraced new ideas as problem solving tools. In fact, these states see new ideas as threats to the status quo and hold the belief that ideas should be owned by a carefully selected segment of society. In fact, if ideas emerge from a different segment of society, then they should be given to the selected group for execution and credit.
The conceptualization, documentation and execution of the brand, Gems of Saint Lucia, was started by Wilson Jn. Baptiste, in 1997, under the theme “The Caribbean’s Future.” This document addressed the utilization of the Caribbean people’s expertise in the development of the Caribbean. However, after much deliberation in academia and with friends, the concept was narrowed down to Gems of Saint Lucia.
The thrust of Gems of Saint Lucia is aimed at ensuring that more of the benefits of the tourism industry remain in the destination. In other words, how can Saint Lucia reduce on leakages in the tourism sector?
As a result, the starting point was to address the marketing of the island as a destination.
Who is marketing the destination? The research revealed two points:
(i). the island was and is being marketed by foreign marketing companies
(ii). the island had a huge population in the market with the capacity to market the island, once trained properly.
As a result, a business and marketing plan was developed to harness the resources of Saint Lucian nationals in the diaspora, into a cohesive team, with the tag line, “Marketing Is Everybody’s Business” and the theme, “Friends of Gems of Saint Lucia” promoting “Our Precious Treasures.”
The reception to the emergence of Gems of Saint Lucia was both ironical and celebratory. The irony to the concept was the deliberate contrary reaction to what we expected which sometimes was both amusing and sad. The very same stakeholders who would have benefitted from this concept were the ones who did not participate. On the other hand, all the stakeholders, members, who have invested in the concept, have received their returns on their marketing investment, many times over.
The Gems concept is not an easy one to understand from the perspective of its form and substance. The form is easy and straight forward to grasp and understand. However, the substance is challenging to grasp and understand due to the many moving parts which are synchronized and end up in the Central Processing House. In addition, the substance addresses market segmentation for the Friends of Gems and the potential traveler. That segmentation ensures that the Gems products are presented by Friends of Gems to environments that they are familiar with. And of course, there are other trade secrets which the initiators will not disclose because they represent the heart and soul of the concept.
The initiators of the Gems concept also accepted and understood that the concept was being introduced into an environment which is intensely competitive. However, this environment provides the Gems principals with an opportunity to be creative and imaginative and to continue learning. However, to-date, Gems has kept its promises to all its stakeholders and has promised only what the team knew that it had the capacity to deliver. Our stake-holders are happy and have continued to support the brand. They have now been converted to be our influencers.
In conclusion, the Gems journey has been an amazing experience where I have had to collaborate with a number of former partners and stakeholders with different perspectives. However, my ability to adapt by being open minded and avoid falling into the trap that the past will happen in the future, intellectual honesty, by seeing the word as it is and self-awareness, by being mindful of the different ways that I think and the reasons why I think the way that I do, as a result of my past experiences, are the fundamental foundations which have kept the Gems going, irrespective of the stumbling blocks. Gems has also been fortunate to have Magdalene Cooman as its Director of Operations. She understood the concept and was able to build the web-site that best fits the philosophy of Gems. The future for Gems looks bright once opportunities are recognized and embraced.
Click on Wilson's Picture to listen to the first video produced by Gems of Saint Lucia in 2008
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