EDITORIAL: More smiles and less stench

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If you are hooked into the social media scene, you have probably heard the recording of a cruise ship passenger who happens to be a native Antiguan. The lady travelled with her family aboard the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas in October and gives a statement/review of her trip to various Caribbean destinations, which included St. Kitts, Antigua, Martinique, St. Lucia and Barbados.  
In her opinion, “Antigua appears to be in the worse condition when compared to the other islands noted.” From that broad statement, she goes into a bit of detail that, sadly, echoes complaints that have existed for what seems to be decades. Let’s review, and you will soon realise how much we are “spinning top in mud.”
“The streets were filthy.” Can’t say that we haven’t heard that one before. “Overgrown grass was observed throughout various parts of the island.” Yeah. No kidding. This is a pet peeve of ours because, not only is the roadside jungle unattractive, it promotes littering and diminishes safety. Next.
“The foul smell of dirty water was also noted at various locations.” This has to be one of the most well recited criticisms of visitors to our port. They cannot believe the stench that greets them in St. John’s. And, it is not just in the city. It seems that we have stinky water everywhere there is a gutter in Antigua. There is something about water and Antigua. We just can’t seem to get it right.
The criticism moved to the vendors with the comment, “the significant number of vendors lining the streets makes the country look impoverished.” This is another déjà vu comment. How long have businesses in St. John’s clamoured for proper management of street vendors? How long have the vendors begged for a home? When will anyone listen and take action?
Want another one? “The roads are also in need of repair.” Now, that is an understatement! People no longer say that our roads need repair. People now say that our roads need replacement. There are only so many times you can patch something.
In the end, the frustrated visitor summed up the cruise by stating that, “Antigua was also noted to be the least favourite of many of the passengers we encountered about this ship.” Yikes! Here we are boasting about our cruise ship arrivals and that we will soon have ‘hippo tours,’ but we are completely missing the basics. We have made this point countless times before over many, many years, but the powers that be service us with deaf ears. Sure the cruise ships may be bringing passengers to our shores, but how many are getting off to experience the aromas of St. John’s or the rollercoaster ride on our roads?
The commentary ends with a plea, literally. Our concerned Antiguan said, “We are pleading for the stakeholders to address the various issues discussed in this statement. Please, let us all, as Antiguans, make our twin-island nation the number one tourist destination. We must continuously discover ways to improve the country, making Antigua more attractive to natives and visitors to have a wonderful day.”
Too often, complaints like this get ignored or shoved under the carpet, but we really need to take these criticisms to heart and act on them. Outside of the roads, we see little in this criticism that will cost a whole heap of money. Mostly it is cosmetic: clearing and cleaning our gutters and streets; tidying St. John’s so that it does not look like a messy college dorm; creating a ‘vendors village’ that provides a home for the vendors and attraction for the visitors.  
Basically, we need to greet our visitors with a smile and not a stench. Beyond that, we need to get the basics right. How long will we hold on to the reputation of bad roads? We always seem to seek to use band-aids when surgery is necessary. We understand that money is tight, but if we use the money wisely and get the best bang for our buck, it will go a long way. Let us, for at least a period of time, get away from political cronyism and sweetheart contracts and allow Antigua and Barbuda to live up to its potential.
We often refer to our rocks as our bit of paradise, but we need everyone who visits to adopt it as their bit of paradise as well. We cannot continue to ignore the obvious and think that our visitors are doing the same. Our senses may be dulled but they arrive at our doorsteps ready to experience it all, good and bad, and they are armed with heightened senses to take it all in.
So we join the plea and say, let us make Antigua and Barbuda more attractive to natives and visitors to have a wonderful day.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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