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(CMC) – St. Lucia has recorded its best ever performance in visitor arrivals when more than 1.2 million people visited the Caribbean island last year, according to figures released here.
Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee said that the 1,218,294 visitors who came here last year represent a 10.2 per cent increase over the 2017 figures, which had been a record-setting year for the island.
According to the figures, the yachting sector recorded a 25.9 per cent increase over last year’s numbers, followed by the cruise sector which recorded a 13.6 per cent and stay-over arrivals 2.2 per cent increase.
“We have a very small tourism marketing budget – around US$13 million – so we have to ensure that our efforts are targeted,” Fedee said in response to the increase and the strategy being employed by tourism officials here.
“We use a scientific approach to select the areas where we can reach the most visitors with the highest net-worth in our marketing campaigns. For us, these areas are, predominantly, in the north-eastern USA, the Tri-state and Boston, the south-east UK region of London and its surrounding suburbs and the Greater Toronto area in Canada.”
The figures show that the island continues to record strong numbers in its major generating markets of the United States and the United Kingdom with increases of 4.1 and 4.9, respectively.
Stayover arrivals from Canada dipped slightly (5.6%) due, in part, to the absence of service from Transat Tours and a reduction in frequency of WestJet flights.
The St. Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) said it had also focused on the neighbouring French island of Martinique, which is the highest yielding in the Caribbean, and launched “Caribcation” in the summer of 2018 as a platform for Caribbean travellers.
It said as a result, the visitor arrival figures grew by 1.6 per cent over 2017.
The tourism officials say the projections for 2019 look good, with UK-based airlines, British Airways Virgin Holidays expected increase airlifts of 17 and 27.9 per cent over 2018.
They said Condor has started an inter-airline agreement with Antigua-based regional airline, LIAT, on service from Frankfurt, Germany.