St Kitts wedding with St Lucia photographer
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Saint Lucia, over the past few years, has been boasted as one of the premier wedding destinations in the Caribbean, if not the world. However, not everyone is enjoying the fruits that come with this accolade and members of the Saint Lucia Association of Professional Photographers (SLAPP) have called on Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilus to address what the association cites as an illegal practice being surreptitiously perpetrated just out of sight of both the government and the public at large.
In a letter send to the minister, SLAPP said local hotels are denying its members access to couples who have directly contracted their photography services, or charging exorbitant fees for photographers to enter their premises to shoot wedding photography.
The situation is so grave that, rather than pay the extortionate fee of US$500 that one all-inclusive resort in the south of Saint Lucia is demanding for a local photographer to photograph a wedding there, the photographer has invited the couple to marry on a neighbouring island, as it costs less to fly him there than to pay the local fee.
The trouble is though that Saint Lucia then loses out on the much needed revenue that couple and their guests would otherwise have injected into the island’s economy.
“And as if this were not bad enough a popular all-inclusive hotel chain on the north of the island point blank refuses to allow local photographers onto its properties to shoot weddings,” cites SLAPP.
“These fees are prohibitively excessive,” said the letter. “We are concerned that this practice represents restraint of trade, which we believe to be illegal in Saint Lucia. We are further troubled that, at a time when our government is subsidizing the VAT that hotels pay by nearly 50% and is considering 25- and 30-year tax holidays for hotels, they are systematically denying our members their right to earn a living.”
This concern comes as preparations are underway for the Love Elevated Wedding Symposium scheduled for September 26 – 29 2013 at the Sandals Grande resort. The photographers’ association cites that it only received an invitation to this event last week, leaving its members little to no time to prepare effective presentations and then to what end when local hotels deny photographers access to fulfill their obligations to brides who have contracted their services.
SLAPP is concerned that with tourism being Saint Lucia’s most important revenue earner and likely to hold this position for the foreseeable future, these vertical linkages will stifle Saint Lucia’s economic growth, which simply negates government’s massive annual investment in the sector.
In fact, the association is extremely concerned that, with government investing nearly U$50 million of taxpayers’ hard earned dollars annually to promote tourism, it is unconscionable that Saint Lucian photographers are systematically being denied their right to trade freely.
The association is further concerned that this is not just happening to its members but also to a broader cross section of Saint Lucian entrepreneurs and is calling on the government to ensure that the hotels abide by and respect the laws of the country.
While they await a response and action from the government, the Saint Lucia Association of Professional Photographers invites fellow Saint Lucians to join in the debate concerning the excessive positions that hotels in Saint Lucia are taking that negatively impact the constitutional rights of Saint Lucian citizens, as they contend that “the broadest cross section of Saint Lucians must be allowed entrepreneurial access to the visitors the government spends millions to attract.”
In its letter, copied to Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, the Saint Lucia Tourist Board and the Saint Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association, SLAPP called on Theophilus to address “this grave injustice with the utmost urgency.”