ADDRESS ON CRIME
Fellow Anguillians; as we all know, Anguilla is a unique country stemming from a unique history and one that was built on hardship. The Anguillian people historically had to eke out a living from the land; land that was void of nutrients, thin and arid. In Dr. Patrick Vanterpool’s strategic development plan for Agriculture, he stated that attempts were made by the population to produce our own food out of necessity as there was no purchasing power to import much from outside producers. He went on to state as a matter of fact, young Anguillians had to travel to the Dominican Republic to cut cane and later migrated to England and further afield where we sent money back to our families while those who remained here fished and farmed.
In the 1980s, tourism related construction changed the face of Anguilla forever. Tourism was a natural evolution as we boasted then as now of having the world’s best beaches, the friendliest and most giving people, perfect weather and a certain level of underdevelopment and an unspoiled country which could be molded and fashioned into the finest tourism destination to benefit the socio-economic development of the Anguillian people. This construction meant that our men could remain on Anguilla and earn a decent living and by doing so, purchase the amenities which we previously dreamt about. This also meant that other industries such as Banking, telecommunications and a modern public service could be developed giving our young women respectability and independence.
We were privileged in that we benefited from seeing tourism development around us. In St. Maarten for example; we saw a boom in tourism and tourism related construction and accompanying infrastructure development. We saw development through tourism in the Virgin Islands and we learnt what to do and equally, what not to do. Successive Governments continued along the same path of high yield, low-density tourism and we have been relatively successful.
Governments over the past thirty (30) years kept certain elements out of our product namelytimeshare and all inclusive and smartly so.
It was believed and is still believed that timeshare would diminish the quality of the product and there has been serious resistance to the all-inclusive model. We have also seen the numbers continue to rise in the all-inclusive markets of Dominican Republic, Cuba and Jamaica. One of the reasons why there are all-inclusive in those markets is to ensure a sterile environment with high importance on guest safety. While many of these countries have beautiful beaches and wonderful people, there is a safety concern for visitors to some of these destinations and in the desire to add foreign currency to the treasuries; Governments have brought in developers who would construct these all-inclusive monstrosities where there is but little trickledown effect to the overall economy.
As one may expect, developers like the concept of all-inclusive due to a number of factors including healthy profits. All-inclusive hotels offer everything and are a kind of a one-stop shop where very little overall positive impact on the economy is felt. Let us say for example, Cap Juluca, Viceroy, Cuisinart Resort & Spa and other larger hotels on island were all-inclusive; how would that affect us?
For one, there would be little to no restaurants on island catering for our tourists. This will significantly impact employment opportunities throughout an island that is now considered the culinary capital of the Caribbean.
Pump House, Dune Preserve, Elvis Beach Bar and many other businesses on island would have had very little chance of being in existence or, would only cater to the locals and a few tourists, if any as all-inclusive hotels also provide exclusive ‘in-house’ entertainment. I must also note, outside guests and locals are usually prohibited from entering all-inclusive hotels and this in itself changes the entire Anguillian product. The Villas of Anguilla are some of our greatest assets. Some are even sung about in chart toping songs with Meads Bay and ANI Villas winning worldwide acclaim. Many of the beautiful villas of Anguilla would have never been developed. The entire economy would be affected and only a small few would benefit from tourism with stagnant wages that would be far below what we have today.
Examples of this can be found in the abovementioned countries that are almost purely all-inclusive destinations.
Each and every one of us has family members and friends who directly work in the hospitality industry. If one has to compare Anguilla 2013 to Anguilla 1963, I’d dare say that every single person in Anguilla work in the hospitality and service industry. It is an industry that we should take care of and protect with every fiber within us. Even those among us who are underemployed or unemployed at this time should fight to preserve Anguilla’s reputation as the safest destination in the world. This is our life and our livelihood and whatever we have today even if it is very little comes from the inward flow of capital to our shores through Tourism.
Fellow Anguillians, over the past ten years, we have seen a bad element creep onto our shores that threatens the very survival of our island paradise. As small and isolated as it may seem, one crime of this nature is one crime too many. The recent incidents at Sand Bar, Little Bay and Blanchard’s are a serious black eye that can cause us irreparable harm and so far, has been a public relations nightmare. These are indeed cause for an all-out ‘war’ against crime and no nonsense, zero-tolerance approach. We need all hands on deck! We need ANGLEC and the Government of Anguilla to install more streetlights; we need more police patrols on the Meads Bay strip, Sandy Ground, Shoal Bay and other frequented public and isolated areas.
We need neighbourhood watches and our people reporting what they see and we need all parents to speak to their children and ensure that they are not part of this alien scourge. If we do not; then Anguilla’s tourism product will change out of necessity and we all shall suffer the dire consequences.
That change will cause hotel developers to want to opt for an all-inclusive model which will ensure that opportunities outside of these hotels will dwindle significantly and impact every single aspect of our lives and will cut across many segments of our economy from the Banks to the Taxi drivers and other service providers. This is a model we would never encourage and a model that each and every one of us can avert if we take care of our people, our brand – if we take care of our product and preserve Anguilla’s name and credibility in the marketplace. To those naysayers who believe that high end and all-inclusive does not go together, just take a look at the model in the Turks & Caicos Islands where it has taken off.
The recent tragedies in Aruba placed that destination in a negative light and damaged its reputation and we should never, ever allow that to happen in Anguilla. We must defend Anguilla and its reputation at all cost!
As I said before; one crime is one crime too many and if there is ever a time to ensure that we stand out as the safest destination in the world, that time is now! Our future depends on it and remember; Tourism is Key to our survival now and in the future. The one thing that separates Anguilla from the rest is our safety and security. I call on Her Majesty’s Government who is responsible for our internal security to also do her part so that together, we can remain, “TRANQUILITY WRAPPED IN BLUE!”
Thank you and may God bless Anguilla