At a Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) meeting on October 18, SLTA Chairperson, Agnes Francis opened in a heavier tone than is normal for our tourism sector, noting the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the Caribbean region.
Ms Francis stated, “Since the Hurricane, there has been a general perception that the entire Caribbean is not open for business.” However, the organisation has worked double time to safeguard the island’s main industry through rigorous efforts via social media, press releases and other media engagements.
She continued to highlight the SLTA’s uneasiness regarding forward bookings to the island. In an attempt to be proactive, a fall campaign focused on digital marketing will be implemented with the slogan “There is no time like now to book Saint Lucia”.
Minister of Tourism, Information and Broadcasting, Hon. Dominic Fedee also addressed the media bearing news from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). The CTO claims that this year, as of August, Saint Lucia has been the second fastest growing tourism destination in the Caribbean, with a growth rate of 9.2%, second to only Bermuda, which has recorded 11.9% growth.
After reiterating Saint Lucia’s on-going progress in the hotel industry, the minister disclosed further plans for the island following the launch of the OECS Tourism Competitiveness Project. The initiative hopes to foster “free movement of people across Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenada,” with the introduction of ferry services. Also with a total grant of USD $26 million for the project, USD $15 million will go towards local ventures, like the renovation of the Castries market, and its outskirts, including the “port Castries area”. The hope is that the area will then be better viewed and utilized as “an important part of our country” and the Saint Lucian package.
Headed by Lorraine Nicholas, the competitiveness project is scheduled to be launched this coming November, and the SLTA is expecting works to begin as of next year.
Speaking on infrastructural development the minister added, “We continue to advance plans of the reconstruction of the airport, and a new state of the art terminal, so that we would be able to [strengthen] the capacity of the destination”.
Also on the agenda is the upcoming launch of the Village Tourism initiative, a name dating as far back as 2007 when the now prime minister served as minister of tourism. The project aims to assist small, local businesses, including local site attractions and bed & breakfast inns, by providing “guidance and training” to allow owners to elevate standards and to be a part of the tourism “marketing hub”.
At Wednesday’s meeting Ms Francis also introduced the SLTA’s new Chief Marketing Officer, Cybelle Brown, who got her start in Saint Lucia, overseeing the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival. She now has an extensive resume in sales, marketing and branding having had her hand in the production of international programmes like the BET awards, Soultrain awards and Black Girls Rock. She has also worked alongside marketing heads from MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures.
The SLTA, with increased efforts to maintain high numbers in tourist arrivals, and with the implementation of new, innovative branding and marketing strategies, has its sights set on more growth and progress within the tourism industry.