“We just had a record-breaking year,” said Saint Lucia Tourism Minister Hon. Dominic Fedee at CHTA (Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association) Marketplace in Nassau, the Bahamas. He wasn’t kidding. Saint Lucia, winner of Recommend magazine’s Readers’ Choice Silver Award for Best International Wedding/Honeymoon Destination, concluded its 40th year of independence by surpassing 400,000 arrivals (423,736 to be exact). Visitor totals for 2019 were 7.1 percent higher than in 2018—which had been a record—and the U.S. market grew 9 percent. (Travel advisors played a role in that, too; see below.)
Moreover, said Minister Fedee, “Although Saint Lucia has one of the highest average daily rates (ADR) in the region, we continue to be in high demand, which only augurs well for the revenue-generation capability of the destination.” He wants to spread that revenue generation more evenly around the island, too.
- AM Resorts will introduce two all-inclusives, a Dreams and a Zoetry, on the south coast, near the airport.
- The new Royal Saint Lucia Turf Club debuted in December with a race featuring A-list horses, including the winner of the Dubai World Cup. This will attract international A-list visitors.
- RSLTC is part of a development that will have 2,500 residential and hotel accommodations.
- Infrastructure plans for the south include a greatly expanded airport and new cruise ship terminal. Having just signed an MOU with Carnival and Royal Caribbean International, Minister Fedee said, “We want to be the home port for the southern Caribbean.” Saint Lucia is also increasing accessibility to beaches, particularly for cruise ship passengers, and its supplies of clean water.
There are important projects in the north, too. These will include residences and a hotel surrounding a new Cabot golf course, and, in late 2022, a Hyatt with 780 rooms.
Meanwhile, SLTA (Saint Lucia Tourism Authority) continues to grow its Village Tourism program so visitors can seamlessly explore the entire island, and Minister Fedee is proud of how his island’s 29-year-old jazz festival, working now with Jazz at Lincoln Center, “has brought back the basics: pure, traditional, authentic jazz.” That makes this festival one of the few on Planet Earth that doesn’t just serve up pop music. Indeed, he said, the entire Summer Festival, encompassing the jazz fest, Carnival, Creole Heritage Month (October), and Roots & Soul, have raised the bar.
Madras and Travel Advisors
In a private conversation, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, who became SLTA’s CEO less than a year ago, said, “What I’m really enjoying is that Saint Lucia has held onto its Creole heritage and integrated that into the visitor experience. You can find the national dish, saltfish, on almost every menu, Madras fabric is everywhere, and you feel as if you’ve had a uniquely Caribbean experience.”
She’s also enjoying the island’s relationship with travel advisors, especially those who’ve taken the Saint Lucia Expert (SLEx) and Romance courses. “These courses have produced some of our best ROI,” she declares. “Agents are really engaged in the education, this helps them sell more efficiently and effectively, and that has translated into bookings with higher ADR. Room nights and revenue are higher, too, so this is a win-win for agents.”