(SNO) — Opposition Leader Philip J. Pierre has said the opening of Royalton Hotel and the improvement in the economies of Saint Lucia’s tourism source markets, particularly the US, are the main reasons for the reported increase in tourism arrivals to the island — and not necessarily due to the policies of the Allen Chastanet-led government.
Pierre said Royalton Hotel increased Saint Lucia’s room stock by over 400 rooms and the Harbor Club by 100 rooms. Both hotels are located in Gros Islet, Royalton in Cap Estate and Harbor Club in Rodney Bay.
Royalton alone accounts for an increase of about 28,072 in arrivals, Pierre said, noting that the hotel’s own marketing arrangements contributed to its customer traffic.
“If the Royalton had not opened the growth would only be 2.5% for that year. The 28,000 additional arrivals is the direct result of the additional rooms. If we look at the 2015 reduction in arrivals we will notice that was the year we lost the Club Saint Lucia room stock,” Pierre said in his response to the 2019-2020 Appropriations Bill.
The 455-room Royalton, built on the location that previously housed Smugglers Cove, was officially opened in Saint Lucia in March 2017.
At the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet had thanked the Saint Lucia Labour Party government for bringing Royalton to Saint Lucia.
“I want to recognize Dr. Kenny Anthony and his government for taking the initiative to make this investment happen. When it comes to the issue of investment we must speak with one voice because ultimately this investment is to facilitate the brand Saint Lucia, which has to resound to the benefit of individual St. Lucians,” Chastanet said at the time.
Pierre further pointed out in his Bills response that arrivals for February 2019 decreased from all major source markets except the United Kingdom. He said the increase in UK arrivals was the direct result of the English cricket tour to the West Indies and matches played in Saint Lucia.
The opposition leader said the economic success of the tourism industry — the main economic driver for the country — depends significantly on “external factors beyond our control for example, the state of the economies in our source markets”.
“Mr Speaker we note the increase in tourism arrivals and the prime minister’s claim that it is the result of his government policies. But what has been the government’s policy? The dissolution of the St. Lucia Tourist Board. A proposed village tourism initiative. The formation of a Tourism Advisory Council (TAC). None of these initiatives are new, except the Tourism Authority, which has not significantly changed tourism administration except for the dismissal of employees and officials perceived to be of a different political persuasion,” Pierre said.
He went on to say that the SLP is concerned with the distribution of the benefits from the tourism numbers revealed by the prime minister.
“Are the vendors and taxi drivers enjoying increased benefits? Are the arrival numbers reflected in the small-hotel sector? The government failed to continue development of the Nature Heritage Tourism Programme but instead chose what they call Village Tourism which after three years is still at the level of consultancy and proposed legislation. Another example of wasted opportunity Mr Speaker,” Pierre said.