The Tourism Division, led by new director Warren Solomon, shared their plans for more than six million EC dollars in European Development funds it will have for projects to revitalise the sector, during a stakeholder meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the Credit Union Hall.
Solomon shared his office’s activities for the past eight months, which included representation at key industry events including Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) meeting in Puerto Rico in November 2018, in partnership with Antigua & Barbuda. Montserrat also made appearances at the Antigua Sailing Week in March and plan to review how they can improve their presence at the event in 2020. They also attended SMART, a tourism trade show on St. Maarten in May and Caribbean Week in New York in June.
The official added that in the past eight months they have hosted several media visits including the National Geographic crew on island this week.
Before discussing the plans for the EU programme funds, the director said they welcome the news that a new port project is in the works. Solomon said Montserrat loses cruise days and daytrippers due to rough seas each year.
Visitor expenditure in 2017 was 22mln between January and October and 23.9 million over the same period in 2018.
The recently approved tourism strategy 2019 – 2022 focuses on sustainable development through quality tourism is the framework through which the EU funds will be spent. The director said there are six areas of focus:
- Soufriere Hills Volcano as pull factor for visiting Montserrat.
- Deliver exceptional and transformational experiences – superior customer service, culinary mastery, great storytelling, entrepreneurial excellence
- Use tech to drive Montserrat’s competitiveness
- Conserve the environment
- Develop quality tourism products services and experiences
- Deploy digital techniques to effectively and efficiently market Montserrat
The tourism division, which sits under the Office of the Premier, plan to run an awareness campaign from September to March 2020 on protecting and enhancing the island’s natural environment.
- Expand and diversify the tourism product – eight hiking trails to be cleaned, signage and safety features improved and/or added between July 2019 to January 2020. Three viewing sites are to be cleaned and binoculars added.
- Industry training and capacity building – customer service, housekeeping, tour development, social media, presentation and packaging – May 2019 to January 2020
- Improvements of directional signage – July to October 2019
- Develop visitor attractions and amenities
- Volcano Interpretation Centre – July to October 2020
- Develop destination website and enhance social media management – June to Oct 2019
- Beach improvement – July to December 2019
- Installation of showers, changing rooms lighting – Isles Bay, Old Road Bay, Lime Kiln, Woodlands Beach, Bunkum Bay (Little Bay and Carrs Bay will be done in second phase to avoid disruption of port project)
Stakeholders present at the meeting had more immediate concerns such as the need for public spaces to be landscaped as part of the island’s product, current public bathrooms to be accessible at earlier times, restroom facilities at Montserrat Springs, and for tour and taxi drivers to dress more appropriately. A major talking point was the crafters who are frustrated with invitations to set up at the port on cruise days but passengers are whisked unto tour buses without a chance to see and buy their products.
The Tourism Division plans to hold more stakeholder meetings to garner feedback and to hear their concerns.