Tourist arrivals drop in 2011

From left: Tourist Board Chairman Matthew Beaubrun, Minister Lorne Theophilus and Director Louis Lewis.

St Lucia remained at the top in 2011 in terms of stay-over arrivals at all of its major markets says the Director of Tourism, Louis Lewis at a press conference held at the St Lucia Tourist Board. Last Thursday’s press briefing was the first since the new board was appointed and chaired by Matthew Beaubrun.
Although St Lucia maintained a top spot, a decline of 0.4 percent caused the country to lose an estimated two million dollars last year in visitor arrivals the director said.
“While that is statistically a very small number as a percentage in terms of the actual number that we had in 2011 compared to 2010 is that we had a decrease of 1300 people coming to St Lucia—that is significant,” said Louis.
According to the director, the US remained the largest market for arrivals in St Lucia comprising of 32 percent but says a reduction in airlift with that particular market has reduced the overall arrival by four percent. Louis further indicated a growth in the Canadian market, adding: “In the middle of 2011 we saw the introduction of a new flight, direct service by air Canada in Montreal—a market that we had not penetrated or been active in for a long time and it contributed to the increase in arrivals that we see coming out of Canada.” He said there is a need to tap into and focus a lot more in that market as there is a potential for even a greater increase in arrivals this year.
While there is a drop in existing markets, the director alluded to the fact that Caribbean Airlines has opened opportunities for St Lucia to tap into the South American market, specifically Brazil and “by all indicators, there is much potential in that market.”
“The UK market in particular, we’ve had some substantial increase in airlift—it still continues to pose a challenge, considering what is taking place in the wider economy.”
Louis said the UK contributes to 25 percent of visitor arrivals to St Lucia and they also provide the longest length of stay as well as a significant expenditure outside of the hotel plant into the wider country.”
Louis also announced a six percent reduction in the number of cruise visitors which provided a loss of 40 000 people compared to 2010 amounting to US3.2 million: “This has a lot to do with the scheduling of vessels in the summer in particular
. . . and that is going to continue to remain a challenge for us,” he said. Mr Louis stated that the marketing strategy for the cruise industry is different from that of the stay-over and there will be a lot more emphasis in developing and sustaining that market.
According to Louis, Norwegian Cruise is set to return to St Lucia in next year and in light of the incident which prompted their pull-out, the new tourist board has appointed an officer within the Ministry of Tourism to handle all security issues for visitors to the island. He further stated that the new board has installed a cruise committee to pay particular attention to developing that market.
As far as St Lucia Jazz is concerned, Director Louis promised a unique experience to this year’s festival. “We’ve had a number of in-depth conversations and dialogue in terms of how we reshape and take a fresh look at the Jazz Festival —some of those features will be evidence in 2012 in a process where we are doing a simultaneous plan for 2013 where we want to take advantage of our heritage, creative industry and showcase local talent.”
Lewis indicated that the St Lucia Jazz had met its original intention in terms of a marketing tool and is no longer a significant marketing tool as it had been in initial years: “The Jazz Festival was created when there was a slow period in the month of May and therefore, this festival was supposed to increase the arrivals during that period.
“We have to create a way of allowing the Jazz Festival to provide some greater benefits—when I look around the Region and you see the number of festivals that have sprung up and also faded away, there is some collateral from having a festival that has lasted 21 years and our responsibility now is to see how we can re-shape the Jazz Festival to ensure that there is some continuity, make it sustainable and most of all, benefit from it.”

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