Six months ago, life changed. And at this point in the COVID pandemic’s relentless progress, we are uncertain whether the ‘normality’ we used to recognize is gone, or whether life has changed forever.
Looking back over the past months, what have we learned? What can we say about Saint Lucia and those on whom we rely for our livelihood; North America and Europe, mainly the UK?
In common with our neighbors, St Vincent, Grenada, Barbados, Martinique, and Antigua, we rely on tourism for the more significant part of our income. Our target markets’ protocols prevented travel, but as islands, we also had the challenge presented by a lack of flights.
.In Saint Lucia, however, even before lockdowns overseas, the government was swift to act. Closing our borders and introducing strict internal protocols was a wise yet brave decision. Other than supermarkets and other essentials, every business closed down. In the tourism sector, all hotels, restaurants, bars, entertainment places, and tours ceased to function, resulting in thousands of staff sent home.
We had the stress of a 7 day, 24-hour curfew, along with a temporary ban on alcohol, but this is the Caribbean, and so somehow, rum was always obtainable if you knew where!
Although the government managed to finance a furlough scheme, we learned which hotels and resorts were ready to stand by their employees and provide support, some even launching guest appeals to raise money.
Most impressive was the overall response of Saint Lucians to the crisis and to appeals made by the government. Everywhere you looked, masks were being worn willingly, social distancing observed, and frankly, a determination to cooperate and get through the ordeal the best way possible.
Crime has been at an all-time low, and in general, a bonhomie existed along with a spirit of caring for one’s neighbor. At that point, we knew we’d probably come through this reasonably unscathed. Having said that, closing down the economy is not without consequences. Businesses have failed, many people have been impoverished by the calamity and no-one can say life isn’t tough right now.
We’ve been spared the embarrassment of selfish people, arguing about wearing masks in stores as in first world countries. We’ve learned to be patient in our inimitable Caribbean way. (“Don’t worry ’bout a ting. Cos everyting gonna be irie”). St Lucian’s will persevere.
Unlike a bomb or a natural catastrophe, a virus doesn’t destroy the landscape. Saint Lucia is as beautiful as ever. Is it possible that the beauty we wake up to every day, coupled with a global realization of how quickly the planet can recover with such a dramatic drop in carbon emissions, has focused the hospitality industry on sustainability?
It would be fantastic if that were so, but it is noticeable that some hotels in Saint Lucia are looking to sustainability as the next big thing. We’ll see some evidence of this as travelers themselves are statistically more interested than ever before on the sustainability rating of where they will stay.
We’ve recently begun welcoming visitors back to the island at this moment in time, providing specific protocols are observed. So if you are someone compliant with those rules and are coming to visit us, you will receive a warm welcome.
Don’t just come for the beauty, the soft sand, and the suntan. Come and get happy. Our island is full of smiles.
Footnote: Officially, Saint Lucia is the only country to date with a 100% recovery rate. (eg, No deaths have resulted from Covid-19)