Caribbean rum producers have been challenged to fully exploit the potential of the regional tourism industry to build their brands. St. Lucia’s Minister of Tourism and Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Minister Dominic Fedee, said there was tremendous opportunity for the region’s two preeminent brands – tourism and rum.
Rum producers from the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic, members of the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA), met in St. Lucia on 6th and 7th May, for their biannual directors’ and annual general meetings. During the meetings, head of the Guyana conglomerate Demerara Distillers, Mr. Komal Samaroo, was re-elected Chairman of the grouping.
Issuing his clarion call at a tasting of Authentic Caribbean Rums, the minister 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”.