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Tourism arrivals are up again, according to statistics cited by Minister with responsibility for Tourism Dominic Fedee.
At Monday’s pre-Cabinet press briefing, Fedee cited improvements in stayover visitors from all major markets, with the exception of Canada (due to reduced airlift from WestJet.)
With January – July figures described as “outstanding”, the minister forecasts a continuation of the positive outlook throughout the rest of the year and into 2018.
Record-breaking July figures were highlighted: there were more than 38,000 stayover arrivals during the month.
Fedee drew attention to encouraging performances in Europe.
“Arrivals from key European markets like Germany, England and France are also trending upwards and make for very encouraging reading for the sector,” he said.
His assessment of the US market was even more positive.
“The US market is very encouraging, we see a 14.6 percent increase [year on year] and year-to-date increase from the US which is our largest market is a 6 percent increase. So that’s pretty phenomenal, when you take into account the volume of people that are coming from the United States – nearing 160, 000 stayover visitors coming to Saint Lucia on an annual basis … the US represents over 50 percent of total arrivals in the stayover segment ….,” the minister explained.
Caribbean arrivals were also robust. The destination continues to be an attractive place for Martinique – arrivals from that source country increased by 25 percent. Visitors from Trinidad & Tobago also increased in numbers.
The cruise sector did not fare so well – ongoing construction at one of Port Castries’ major cruise ship berths impacted heavily on arrival numbers in that industry segment. Acknowledging that there had been “somewhat” of a decline, Fedee remained encouraged by an almost 20 percent increase in year-to-date arrivals.
Anticipating an early January opening of the new expanded berthing, the minister expects “improved and increased numbers” based on the larger-capacity “megaships” that would then be able to call at the port.
Fedee sought to allay possible fears from cruise-associated sectors like taxi and duty-free retail due to the ongoing construction running into the start of the traditional “high season”.
“SLASPA and the Tourist Board, they have a plan which would ensure that the other three berthing facilities in the Castries Harbour would still be open and fully operational so that the impact of the construction will be very, very, very small. We’re also working with a number of the cruise lines to do some anchorage outside of the harbor so that the opportunities for an expanded and sustained cruise performance will be there.”
Acknowledging that growth numbers for the destination were pointless unless Saint Lucians benefited directly from the boosted figures, Fedee indicated that the government was working “feverishly” to establish a policy platform that would do just that. He reiterated the highlights of the “revolutionary” policy framework his administration is pursuing.
“We’re implementing our village tourism initiative – [it] should be launched later this year…we will go out to Saint Lucians and mobilise the populace, and get them involved. There are other initiatives through the OECS Tourism Competitive Project which really seeks to enhance the market facility.”
Fedee went on to promise the delivery of capacity-building training to “vendors, crafters and artisans, so that they can see greater benefits from what to date is our number one industry”.