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Diversify economy with heritage tourism
The Government needs to ensure that five historic buildings it intends to renovate can pay for themselves — that is that they will generate the finances necessary to maintain their structure.
This was the view of president of Citizens for Conservation Rudylyn Roberts in an interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday.
Roberts, an architect, was commenting on the establishment of a restoration committee headed by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and including Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis who took the media on a tour of the buildings on Wednesday.
The committee is tasked with restoring historical sites in the nation in order to preserve the country’s heritage.
“Let them earn their keep. One of the things we have to do is look at the buildings’ maintenance.
“Fix it, but put it to a use that will generate income to maintain it,” Roberts said.
He also said that was one of the ways the Government could diversify the economy with heritage tourism.
“Heritage tourists spend more money than sun and beach tourists. Buildings like Mille Fleurs can be made to earn their keep,” she said.
She said the Government should also look at alternative ways to fund the restoration of the buildings.
“I know we are now under constraints because of funding but maybe we need to get a committee together that will start looking outside the box to find funding to fix the buildings.
“The European Union (EU) is there and there might be international avenues out there that can be tapped but we need to get someone who understands how to write proposals,” she added.
Roberts said she was glad that the Prime Minister had been taking a personal interest in getting the buildings repaired.
She added: “We have not had that kind of intervention in a long time. If he thinks it is important it will filter down to the ministries and then to the relevant officials and we will get some action. I am crossing my fingers and my toes.”
Roberts said the buildings, particularly Mille Fleurs and President’s House, were “in a really bad way.”
“In the case of Mille Fleurs I know some of it will have to be reconstructed but not all of it. At the end of the day the building needs to still have its historical integrity.
“Right now it is past the point that President’s House was when the roof collapsed. Parts of it has already collapsed and even with the temporary roof covering it, the termites are at it and it is still deteriorating. It is very vulnerable at the moment.
“My heart is with all of these buildings. It is absolutely disgraceful that it should be allowed to get to that point,” she added.
She said even leaving President’s House for years without at least cleaning out the leftover rubbish was disgraceful.