As St. Lucia continues to market itself in different parts of the world, there has been a slight increase in tourist arrival to the island.
Director of Tourism Louis Lewis said statistics at the end of August 2014 shows that there has been a 6.6 per cent increase in tourist arrivals here. This is against a 4 per cent increase for 2013, despite the challenges facing the global tourism industry.
Lewis made this disclosure on the “In Touch” TV programme on Monday with Press Secretary Jadia Jn Pierre-Emannuel. He said the performance is satisfactory, especially since the island is competing with countries with much larger budgets and there are no concessions and other incentives.
The director of tourism said the St. Lucia Tourist Board (SLTB) has been working feverishly to ensure that the tourism market remains stable and continues to record progress. As such, the SLTB has been working to facilitate travel for visitors from different residences, in different parts of the world. The aim is not only to target traditional markets, but new and emerging ones.
Lewis also revealed that the island is looking to attract tourists from South America, particularly Brazil. Meetings between officials there and the SLTB have commenced, but the details of the arrangements are still being discussed. St. Lucia, he said, is taking a very careful approach and is looking closely at how other Caribbean countries that get Brazilian tourists are doing.
While underscoring the importance of regional tourism, Lewis stated that the cost of inter-regional travel is still high which is a major setback for many islands. The tourism director explained that a consumer, who may want to travel to a sister Caribbean island, could pay the same cost for travel to Miami or New York. As a result, travelers would prefer to travel to the United States.
He said while there has been heavy focus on the European market, there are good enough reasons for that. Lewis explained that this market is more organised than those in the United States and Canada, which allows greater details of tourist arrivals and spending in the island. However, despite this, the SLTB, he explained, has been working to get more tourists from North America to visit.
The island has been able to convince Jet Blue to add a direct flight from Boston to St. Lucia. Delta will also add a direct flight from New York to St. Lucia and United Airlines will now move from having one flight to three flights weekly to St. Lucia. Air Canada will also have direct flights from Toronto and Montreal to the island. The SLTB is trying to secure flights from Manchester, as well.
Meanwhile, Lewis said St. Lucia has adopted a new approach to having dialogue with tourism partners and as such have abandoned the expensive venture of having a series of meetings. Instead, a two-day event is held and major tourism players are invited, like the recently-concluded one held in the United Kingdom (UK). This new setting has allowed for more discussion and greater success.
The tourism director noted that 120 people attended the most recent meeting in which Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony participated. He said it is also an opportunity to update the corporations on what is new in St. Lucia and give them an update on what is planned for the next year.
Lewis said it was important to have the prime minister, since it gave the tourism operators and corporations the assurance of the sector and the feedback was good. The tourism director stated that despite the challenges, the SLTB will strive towards ensuring that St. Lucia continues to be a number one choice for tourism in the Caribbean.