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Tourism continues to be Saint Lucia’s leading industry; serving as the country’s primary engine of growth, stimulating wide spread economic activity, encouraging foreign and local investment while at the same time directly creating employment opportunities for thousands of Saint Lucians and, indirectly, for many thousands more through various suppliers and support industries.
The islands’ lead tourism promotions and marketing agency – the Saint Lucia Tourist Board says the last four years have seen exceptional growth in the sector resulting in substantial gains in virtually all categories. The most encouraging category which boast a considerable upsurge is with the significant increases in stay-over arrivals. This is the area that impacts almost every other category.
Between 2012 and 2015, the island recorded a 12% overall increase in arrivals, from 287,000 to nearly 350,000 arrivals. The United States, the largest and fastest growing source of stay over arrivals expanded from 38% to 44% of total arrivals over the last four years. In 2015, the island welcomed 152,738 visitors the largest number of US arrivals ever recorded, while UK, the second largest market, accounted for an average of 72,170 arrivals per year over the last four years peaking in 2014.
The Caribbean, the third largest market with the exception of August, logged increases in arrivals every month of the year resulting in a 13% increase in overall arrivals and an average of 18% market share over the four years. Arrivals from the Caribbean produced the largest number from that market in 2015 recording an impressive 62,745 stay over visitors.
Last year Saint Lucia recorded an impressive 344,908, stay-over arrivals – an increase of 2% over the previous record breaking year. According to Tourism Minister Lorne Theophilus, “The Island recorded increases in stay over arrivals every month during the first two quarters of 2015, with the best performances being recorded in January and May. The months from January to April and June and October of 2015, generated the highest numbers ever recorded for these specific months, while the figures for March were the highest number of visitors ever recorded in any one month period.”
Other encouraging trends include comparable growth in the Cruise sector. This sector continues to enjoy steady increases and has contributed to the direct positive impact to the growth of the tourism sector as well as having a tangible positive impact on other sectors as well. This growth coincided with an annual increase in cruise calls, although it was generated by 52 additional calls between 2012 and 2015.
All of these trends are contributing to what may be the most encouraging areas of growth, an increase in total expenditures by visitors during their stay.
According to Minister Theophilus, “This trend of visitors spending more while here in Saint Lucia results in real economic growth and it also means that various other sectors are directly benefiting from the tourism sector reflecting the true fiscal contribution of the tourism sector to the overall Saint Lucian economy.”
These robust gains in Saint Lucia’s tourism sector are a direct result of the hard work and dedication of scores of industry officials and the thousands of employees and support staffs who work tirelessly to deliver first class customer service to our visitors.
The continued growth in the tourism industry can also be directly attributed to new and innovative strategic marketing efforts targeted at key sectors of the island’s source markets.
Concerning airlift, seating capacity from the island’s main market, the US, increased by 12% in 2015 thanks to carriers like AA, Jet Blue, United Airlines and Delta, which took advantage of the strong demand for the island in that market. The Saint Lucia Tourist Board, along with the Ministry of Tourism and the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority have worked tirelessly over the past four years to drive increases in airlift into the country.
More specifically, the island saw the introduction of direct service from New Jersey on United Airlines in 2013; from New York on Delta and from Boston on Jet Blue in 2014; and only December last year, we received a new flight out of Chicago on United Airlines. Sunwing from Canada also returned from October 2014 to March 2015, providing direct service from Toronto, and is closely linked with the new Royalton Saint Lucia (former Smugglers), which is scheduled to open later this year. Capacity was also increased from the UK, following the introduction of service on FlyThomasCook, direct from Manchester – a gateway that was unavailable for nearly a decade!
Over the last four years, a more strategic approach was adopted with regard to the airlift policy, which was more in keeping with the total number of visitor arrivals and therefore, afforded better load and yield factors. The US and UK markets have seen increases in airline seat capacity, whilst the Caribbean Market, which prior to 2012, had one of the largest number of seats yet smallest loads, received the greatest cut in seating capacity following changes to LIAT’s Caribbean schedule. All other markets maintained a relatively consistent number of seats over the four year period.
With the CTO declaring 2016 the Year of Romance in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia’s tourism product maintains its strong appeal – the breath taking attractions, state of the art accommodations, warm and hospitable people, excellent service delivery and scrumptious renowned cuisine continues to resonate with visitors.
Total visitor expenditure for the first half of 2015 was estimated at over US$414 million; a 12% increase from the same period last year. That impressive growth trend looks set to continue in 2016 with early projections set at 2.8%.
The stay over arrival potential as well as on island expenditures look to be in position for even more growth as Saint Lucia tourism officials are preparing to welcome over 700 new hotel rooms to the island’s accommodations in 2016.
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