St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Minister of Urban Development, Labour, Culture and Electoral Matters Rene Baptiste recently gave a presentation outlining her country’s remarkable plan for developing cultural tourism. After her talk, “Festivals, Brands and Sustainable Tourism,” the Minister received a standing ovation. As it faces the collapse of the banana industry, St. Vincent and the Grenadines have been forced to look at new ways of making what is available— and what is sustainable— work for the development of the country. The Minister noted that the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day— “Celebrating Diversity”—fits neatly into the model her country is building, which relies heavily on its cultural heritage to take it into the future.
Minister Baptiste has found that people want more training in their various cultural endeavors. Therefore, more effort needs to be made to develop the cultural capital of the country by focusing on training for young people. She said the Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, sought scholarships for dance, music, and visual arts, including scholarships to Cuba and Venezuela. The participation of these newly trained young people was guaranteed by another part of the plan— to create festivals and to enhance existing festivals. St. Vincent already had many annual events, including Basil’s Jazz Festival in Mustique, Union Island’s African drum festival, their summer carnival (Vincy Mas), and the Nine Mornings Christmas celebrations. They created several more, including a performing arts event that gets huge participation from young people, and a gospel festival which has grown steadily since its birth in 2003.
The government sends young people to study in art- and museum-rich Mexico, so that when the restoration of an old colonial building is complete and a museum created to house these important artifacts, local people will have the skills to preserve and manage the collection and run the museum. The plan is to “create a cadre of cultural practitioners” and give the support to nourish them so that the cultural value continues to grow. She spoke about the preservation of SVG’s architectural gems, such as Kingstown’s splendid cathedrals, the continued development of community tourism, and the manufacture of natural local products and traditional herbal remedies for the growing spa market.
Minister Baptiste expressed her joy at the cultural cross-fertilizations that have arisen through the re-connection with the Garifuna people to their former homeland in St. Vincent. Now, through the revival of this connection, Garifuna people from Central America and the U.S. have made “spiritual and emotional journeys to their motherland.” This, too, is tourism.
For full article, see http://www.tntreview.com/?p=833
Photo of the Honorable Rene Baptiste from http://www.grenadines.net/diary0204.html