St Lucia’s Minister of Tourism and Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Dominic Fedee, has challenged Caribbean rum producers to fully exploit the potential of the regional tourism industry to build their brands
According to West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) press release, it members met in St. Lucia on 6 and 7 May, for their biannual directors’ and annual general meetings. During the meetings, head of the Guyana conglomerate Demerara Distillers, Komal Samaroo, was re-elected Chairman of the grouping.
WIRSPA is one of the oldest private sector trade associations in the Caribbean. It represents rum producers in Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Haiti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.
Issuing his clarion call at a tasting of authentic Caribbean rums, Fedee lamented the low profile given the iconic rum brands being produced in the region, “as a people we need to be prouder of our indigenous world class brands.” Instead, he said, “many persons aspire to foreign brands, while consumers in those self-same countries crave our products”.
“With some 40 million visitors coming to our countries each year”, he said, “we have a unique opportunity for them to sample and purchase our products, whether it be on board ship, in our resorts, or in our community tourism initiatives”.
Responding to the call, WIRSPA Chairman, Komal Samaroo said, “the potential to improve the visitor package and to increase exposure of our high-quality premium brands through leveraging our 300 plus years of rum history and heritage are well appreciated, and an opportunity our producers are actively addressing”.
However, according to Samaroo, “the availability of imported duty-free spirits to both visitors and locals alike, whether through legitimate sale or through lax controls, is a real threat to our domestic markets. We have recently placed this as an active issue before CARICOM ministers of trade and we will work with governments to address these challenges which impact so negatively on our international competitiveness.”
Margaret Monplaisir, Managing Director of St. Lucia Distillers said, “…visitors are an increasingly important part of our business model. We are currently planning a major investment in a new visitor facility that will expose the best of St. Lucia and of course the best of our rums.” The investment, she explained, “is a substantial one and when completed, will be among St. Lucia’s premier visitor attractions”.