The man in charge of transforming St Helena’s economy has praised people in business on the island – because couldn’t do it himself. It’s too tough.
Julian Morris said running a tourism business was the hardest of all. But the chief executive for economic development also said it was about to get tougher still for anyone who failed to improve.
The buidling of an airport would bring greater competition – including from outside – and businesses that did not change would be in trouble.
He told members of the island’s Tourism Association: “Anyone who’s in business, full-stop, on St Helena, I respect. I’m not tough enough to do it: it’s too hard.
“There are easier ways of making money than opening a business on St Helena, and opening a tourism business on St Helena, where you’ve only got customers one week in three, has got to be the toughest of all things to be doing.
“If you’re in tourism you’re one of the pioneers. You’re resilient people who have put in the hard yards, and now you need to make sure you’re the people who are going to harvest what is coming.”
He said the first priority for the island’s new development agency, Enterprise St Helena, was to support Saint businesses – and the second was to help finance them.
But he warned: “If you’re not improving your game, you’re in trouble. The people whose business are falling into the ‘I’m struggling’ category are probably going to struggle more.
“People think, well, things are going to be better, wages are going to go up, prices are going to go up, but if you’re not planning, your business is in trouble. If you’re changing your plans, you’re going to do fine.
“I will seek to help you, and people in the hospitality sector can help themselves.”
That meant accepting the need for a sharper approach, he said. “There are people who are just not really interested in changing their approach to business and there are people who are. Everything on the island has to change.
“It is going to change whether people like it or not. It’s coming down the railway tracks.
“Somebody said to me once, not very long ago, ‘Julian, you’re the guy who’s going to solve my problems,’ and I said, ‘No, you’re completely deluded. The person who’s going to solve your problems is you. It’s your business, it’s your decisions’.”