As the new cruise season approaches, Roseau vendors say they are unsure of their future
The Dame Eugenia Charles Boulevard Dame in Roseau has long been a bustling hub for vendors, offering cruise ship visitors a vibrant array of local crafts, souvenirs, and experiences. However, as the awaited cruise season reopens, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over some vendors unexpectedly removed months ago from their usual spot on the Bayfront.
For the local vendors who see the Bayfront as a prime location to showcase their products, the displacement has left them in limbo, with no clear information on where they will be relocated.
Athenia, a seasoned vendor of over a decade, expressed her concerns to The Sun: "We understand that changes are happening, but we need some clarity. Our livelihoods depend on this, and with the cruise season just around the corner, we're left in the dark."
Another vendor of handcrafted jewellery added, "We've been selling our crafts and products on the Bayfront for decades. This place is not just our livelihood; it's our identity. We were shocked when we were told to leave, and now we're in limbo, not knowing where we'll be relocated to."
The absence of communication regarding the relocation plan has fueled frustration among many.
"We're not against progress, but we need to know where we stand," one vendor who requested anonymity stated. "We understand that Tourism officials have reached out to some vendors, but the rest of us have received no communication. It's not just about our businesses but the experience we offer visitors and the cultural richness we bring to the Bayfront."
Mrs. Joseph posited, "The Bayfront is where we meet the world, and it is a prime location for us. We've heard rumours about a new location, but no one has officially told us anything." A few months ago, when the vendors were informed of their eviction, the President of the Bayfront Vendors Association, Roy Romaine, expressed concerns, emphasizing that the proposed alternative location is not conducive for sales.
He disclosed that following a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Tourism, they were given a strict deadline of May 26, 2023, to vacate the kiosk, which the vendors were earlier assigned. Some vendors insisted they would not move; however, the colourful structure vanished from their usual location weeks later.
"We cannot abandon an area where we are generating income to move to a place where our earnings would dwindle to nothing," he declared. "That is undeniably inhumane treatment, and we find ourselves in limbo," Romaine lamented.
During the meeting, Romaine highlighted a proposal regarding the necessity for the Ministry of Tourism to convene a comprehensive meeting with the entire body of the vendors association to discuss plans for the Bayfront. However, the effective execution of this proposal remains pending, The Sun was informed.
Despite attempts by The Sun to seek insights from the manager of the Roseau City Council, the parliamentary representative for the Roseau Central constituency, and Tourism officials, our efforts have, regrettably, failed.
No concrete plans shared with vendors
Local authorities responsible for the changes have yet to provide the majority of the vendors with a concrete plan or alternative location for their businesses, the individuals were spoke to told The Sun. This lack of information has raised concerns about the immediate future and the sustainability of their businesses in the long run.
Tourism Minister Denise Charles revealed an impressive 18 per cent increase in cruise ship calls for Dominica's upcoming 2023-2024 cruise season.
She emphasized the positive impact on various sectors dependent on cruise-related activities, stating, "Cruise-related livelihoods such as taxi services, tour operators, vendors, hair braiders, and restaurant owners can expect a very good season."
In this regard, one uncertain vendor expressed, "We've been a part of Roseau's charm, and our businesses contribute to the local economy. We want to work with the authorities to find a solution that benefits everyone."
-By Ronalda Luke