Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilus is hopeful that Saint Lucia will increase its tourist arrivals by at least three to five percent during the course of this year.
Part of that increase, according to him, is hoped to be from the Brazilian and Latin American markets.
Speaking in parliament recently, Theophilus said based on a mandate given to his ministry during last year’s budget, his ministry embarked on a few ventures aimed at getting into that market.
So far, he said the Saint Lucia Tourist Board attended a Latin American World Travel Market Forum (in April 2013) in order to set up a framework with travel industry partners in that region and to introduce Saint Lucia as a destination.
He said through this, St. Lucia was able to be showcased and also do a preliminary evaluation on the feedback it received on the state of the travel industry in Brazil and Latin America.
“We held meetings as well with local industry partners to present the potential benefits of Brazil and exactly how we will approach that market so that there is a consultative effort…Along with our various industry partners we discussed the various strategies so that we can find those strategies and adopt one which we believe is beneficial to the sector as a whole,” he said.
“… We held key meetings with airlines that can provide connectivity from key Brazilian cities to the destination and we in fact have contacted a representative within that market place to begin to generate the awareness of St. Lucia and to drive that business awareness into St. Lucia,” he added.
The tourism minister said this approach is preferred over the method previously used whereby a tourism minister would have gone to Brazil, given “a huge minimum revenue guarantee”, when no demand for the destination had been built [and] no interest in the destination…”
“We’re going the other way. What we’re doing is we’re sensitising that market- ensuring that there is sufficient demand so that when the decision is made to enter the Brazilian market it is after we are sure that we can drive certain demands to the airline that we wish to engage in creating connectivity between the Brazil and Latin American markets,” he explained.
Theophilus took the opportunity to note that a special media launch was held in Brazil about a week ago to officially launch the destination to that country.
“From all accounts, that event went exceptionally well,” he said.
The minister said apart from the Brazil/Latin American market, the SLTB also plans to place some more focus on the United Kingdom and Canada.
Another path which his ministry seeks to take is to partner with is the sports ministry to advance sports tourism and make the most of the recently passed Tourism Incentives Bill.