The Grenada Revolution Online

Bishop Speech - The New Tourism

Speech by Cde. Maurice Bishop to the Regional Conference on the Socio-cultural and Environmental Impacts of Tourism in Caribbean Countries
(December 1979)


The speech text below comes from the Government Information Service-Grenada, December 1979. Minor spelling corrections and paragraphing are the only changes.

Fellow Ministers of Government, Delegates, Sisters and Brothers:

On behalf of the People's Revolutionary Government and the People of Grenada I want to first of all give you a hearty welcome to Free Grenada and to thank you for choosing our country as the site of your conference. I want you to know that we regard your conference as an important one because for us in Grenada, tourism is important and it will continue to be so for years to come.

With this in mind I want to make it known that we in Grenada are fully committed to an active and expanding tourist industry.

In this regard you are no doubt all aware of our recent announcement re the establishment of our international airport at Point Salines, a site that happens to be right in the center of our main tourist area. This airport, made possible with the generous assistance of countries like Cuba and Venezuela, will go a long way to boosting our tourist trade. This development, which I am sure you will all welcome, is only one example of our commitment to the expansion of tourism in our country.

Later on I will deal with some other examples of our commitment to tourist expansion and satisfaction in Grenada, but at this time I want to say a few words about our overall concept of what tourism should be all about not only in Grenada but indeed in the whole region.

Undoubtedly the best way to approach this subject is to give you a brief background to our revolution, because it is that event and the process coming out of that event which really shapes our understanding of what tourism must be all about in the future.

Despite the propaganda you may have heard from various places, people and governments within our region, the Grenada revolution is very much a popular revolution aimed at bringing bread, justice and freedom to our people. This is no empty rhetoric and I trust that during your stay here you will have a chance to see the reality of our popular revolution.

That reality aside however, the point I really want to make is that the nature of our revolution will and does reflect itself in our concept of tourism. For us there is an "old" tourism which we want to see replaced by what we call a "new tourism". To understand what we mean by a "new tourism" it is essential that we understand what we mean by the "old tourism".

OLD TOURISM

The major problem with "old tourism" is that it grew up in an imperialist age and is therefore beset with all the worst features of imperialism. As such, tourism was never intended as a means of developing the national economy and society. Rather it was a means of increasing dependence on the metropole and of providing development for the few, and underdevelopment for the vast, vast majority of the people of our islands. Let me give you some examples of what I mean.

OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL

Just like sugar, bauxite, banana, and oil, in many of the Caribbean territories, the tourist plant was owned and controlled by multinational corporations - like Hilton, Holiday Inn, Inter-Continental, etc. Typically the foreign investors came and took as much as they could in terms of tax holidays, duty free imports, demands for expensive infrastructural projects that frequently serviced only isolated hotels or exclusive residences.

And having got all that, very little of the profit from the venture was actually re-invested in the island. Most found its way back to the metropole. Moreover, this process also meant that foreigners laid claim to significant areas of our land space, a factor of major concern in the smaller islands where land is a very scarce commodity. In some cases of course, they even claimed our beaches for their exclusive use.

TOURIST PLANT AS ENCLAVE

Indeed a major feature of old tourism was that the tourist plant was created as an enclave. It was an economic enclave with no linkages with the rest of the economy. Food for tourist consumption, materials for hotel construction, managers for the hotels, were all brought in from outside. In fact, we in Grenada estimate that only about 20 cents of the tourist dollar actually remained on the island.

In addition to being economic enclaves, the tourist colonies were also social enclaves of privilege. The hotels were sturdy buildings with water and sewerage and electricity and good food, and not too far down the road were the local villages and dwellings where conditions were just the opposite.

RACISM AND BLACK SELF IMAGE

Let us face it too, in the early days and even now, most tourists are white. This clear association of "whiteness" and "privilege" is a major problem for Caribbean people just emerging out of a racist colonial history where we had been so carefully taught the superiority of things white and the inferiority of things black. Once again our people were confronted with the apparently inevitable relationship between race and social class position, a factor very damaging to a growing black confidence in self.

IMPOSITION OF CULTURAL VALUES

To make matters worse, the metropolitan visitors brought with them some of the worst aspects of their culture - inflation, consumerism, drug abuse, homosexuality, prostitution, gambling. Because of their "high" social position in the West Indies context, there was and is a great danger of them being regarded as a "reference group" which locals, particularly the young, imitate.

UNDEPENDABILITY OF TOURISM

Again too, in the old way, tourism was very unstable economic base. Whether tourists decide to visit an island is to some extent a "fad". To some extent it depends on the vagaries of metropolitan economics, to some extent on promotions which Caribbean islands as a whole could little afford, and to some extent on the availability of transportation. On this issue we heard recently of a young sister who took 7 days to get from Europe to Grenada and the baggage took 9!

Further, whether tourists come or not depends on the political climate. The example of Cuba is worth remembering. From being one of the primary tourist destinations in the Caribbean, tourism virtually disappeared in Cuba in the first months after the revolution.

Right here in Grenada too, in 1974 the number of tourist arrivals dropped significantly as a result of the so-called "unrest" - which was really a situation created by a people demanding their just political rights.

REGIONAL SEPARATISM

Lastly, as is usual in the colonial chronicle, tourism encouraged a policy of each island for itself - of each island attempting to promote its own "sun, sea and sand" at the expense of everybody else's. Even now we still have vestiges of this.

Visitors en route to Grenada repeatedly have to face what amounts to harassment in Barbados. Our efforts to establish a Grenada desk at Grantley Adams airport to smoothen inter-flight problems have continuously been rebuffed. The result is that Grenada-bound visitors frequently have to overnight in Barbados, and when hoteliers there insist on a minimum booking of at least three nights, it has serious consequences for Grenadian tourism.

To summarize then, we see "old tourism" as a problem largely because of its colonial and imperialist connotation. It was foreign owned and controlled, unrelated to the needs and development of the Caribbean people, and it brought with it a number of distinct socio-cultural and environmental hazards such as the race question and undesirable social and economic patterns such as drug abuse and prostitution which are too little taken into account.

"NEW TOURISM"

We in Grenada have been urgently seeking solutions to these problems since our March 13th Revolution. We start from the premise that our society cannot just be a recipient society where metropolitan investors create enclaves for metropolitan visitors to descend at will regardless of the effects on our society.

We start from the principle that Grenadians, an all Caribbean people must be recognized as controllers of their own destiny and developers of their own process. From this basic principle we have begun to develop a policy of what we call "new tourism", clearly time does not permit me to venture into too great detail on this, but allow me briefly to share with you what we see as the main elements of this "new tourism" policy.

Firstly, we see tourism not merely as a business but as an instrument of world peace and understanding where peoples from all over the world can meet in an atmosphere of mutual respect and develop closer understanding of their different cultures.

Secondly, from the economic side we see tourism as a tool for development not only in the tourism sector in itself, but also from the links to be Forged with all areas of the economy.

For example, we see tourism as providing an important stimulus for the development of our agricultural and agro-processing sectors, for the development of local cuisine to create new and varied dishes from local agricultural production, for the development of the local construction industry utilizing designs and materials that are locally produced.

We see the development of our handicraft, culture and other art forms as expressions of our own reality and aspirations, and tourist consumption following that expression rather than our culture being determined by some preconceived notion of what the tourist might expect.

Thirdly, we place great emphasis on the diversification of the tourist market. There is much potential in Latin America and particularly Venezuela, and in Europe outside of the U.K. We see this diversification as vital in the creation of an independent process outside of the sphere of influence of any ' one external power.

Fourthly, we are seeking to break the relationship between tourism, class and colour. We see it as important to consciously encourage non-white visitors, and particularly West Indians, who in any case we see as providing a useful complement to other visitors in the so-called "off season". Further, we have in our foreign policy given fullest support for the third world effort towards a new international economic order. It is only, after all, as the third world develops economically that social benefits such as tourist leisure will follow.

Fifthly, we give fullest support to the Caribbean regional movement and to genuine efforts to find regional solutions to problems in tourism as in other sectors.

CONCRETE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE REVOLUTION IN TOURISM DEVELOPMENT

With these aims in mind, we in the People's Revolutionary Government have been striving to achieve some of the basic tenets of our concept of a "new tourism". Thus on an international front we have been actively engaged in efforts to see the birth of a New International Economic Order, a vital prerequisite for the emergence of a world economic climate based on mutual exchange rather than metropolitan exploitation.

Similarly, on the regional front we have never ceased in our determination to forge closer links among our nations in the Caribbean. In this respect, despite a benign neglect and at times negative response to our efforts by some of our Caribbean neighbours, we have nevertheless been able to be party to the St. George's Declaration, a significant step for St. Lucia, Dominica and Grenada in the process of closer regional cooperation.

Such efforts are a clear signal of our determination to create the right regional and international climate for the evolution of the "new tourism". In this respect, the rapid emergence of a viable and productive agro-industrial sector within the economy has meant that for the first time in Grenada's history, we are now producing processing and canning juices, fruits and vegetables for the tourists who come to vacation here.

At the same time the previously mentioned airport will go a long way to making it easier for tourists to get here, as will the establishment of our own national airline - Air Grenada - an airline that is due to start scheduled services very soon. On this same subject of increased air service to Grenada, we also hope that our Avro airline, made available to us by the Venezuelan government will come into service with LIAT in time for the winter tourist season.

Such developments will obviously aid in the widening of our tourist base - a key aspect of the "new tourism" WE are aiming to create. At the same time however, we are also making rapid strides in the area of satisfying our tourists once they are here with us.

Thus in the area of water supply, we have received pump equipment which will significantly bolster the water available for the coming tourist season by exploiting the bore hole concept. Again we expect shortly additional pump equipment for the Grand Etang water project, a project whose completion will signal the end of water problems in St. George's.

Finally, our increased emphasis on training within the industry here is also in full gear with recently completed courses in customer satisfaction and handicraft development in our new Hotel Training School and in the Handicraft Training Centre. These latter thrusts will go a long way in helping our industry to become more people-oriented with higher levels of tourist and worker satisfaction. Such development can only aid in the demise of the concept that sees tourism as a mere business, while making sure that our tourism becomes a vehicle for mutual exchange of ideas and skills in the process of cementing greater international understanding.

Certainly we have come a long way in the 8 1/2 months of our revolution, as we strive to build our "new tourism". Undoubtedly there is still a long way to go, but I am confident that guided by our revolutionary principles and our people, we will reach our goal. In this regard despite all the negative propaganda against what we are trying to do in Grenada, it is clear that many tourists are quite happy with our new thrust to build a "new tourism".

Hence in the period from July to September of this year, the amount of stay-over visitors in our island went up by 6% as compared to the same period last year. Similarly in regard to cruise ship visitors, we have had a 16% increase as compared to figures for the same period last year. Moreover, our overall projections for the coming tourist season reflect occupancy rates that are the highest for years.

Such figures speak for themselves as a strong indicator that Grenada remains a popular site for tourists. At the same time for us here in Grenada, these figures carry an additional message. For to us, these figures are a signal that the Caribbean as a whole must move forward to build a "new tourism".

In closing, I trust that your distinguished delegates will get that message and tackle the serious problem of redefining our tourism, of making our tourism a "new tourism".

Thank you.

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