ST LUCIA: Officials pleased with increased tourist arrivals to St. Lucia
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, CMC - Tourism officials in St. Lucia are predicting a good year for the industry after the island's main market returned to positive growth after years of decline.
Figures released by the St. Lucia Tourist Board (STLB) show an increase of nearly 12 per cent for the month of February with the United States market growing by just under 43 per cent over the same period last year.
The Canadian market was down by two per cent as a result of a reduction in service by West Jet and the United Kingdom declined by 11 per cent even though travel out of Europe increased by nearly 14 percent.
But tourism officials say that the growth of the US market is welcomed and is in keeping with positive growth experienced over the last four months.
Tourism Minister Allan Chastanet said what is significant is that the island has been experiencing a significant increase in US visitors prior to the airing of two reality television shows that were filmed in St. Lucia.
"The television shows were aired during the last week of February and first week of March and given the increase in airlift by American Airlines, Jet Blue and Delta it is anticipated that we are going to see and even more significant growth from May to August in comparison with the same period last year," Chastanet said.
He said that on a monthly basis the tourism sector was facilitated with 9,000 airline seats last year while for 2010 the island has booked in the region of nearly 24,000 seats.
"This auger extremely well for our strategy and what our expectations are for this year," he noted.
The Minister said that the increase in arrivals maybe due to the fact that Mexico has not rebounded from the H1N1 virus and the high criminal activities linked to the drugs trade.
He also praised the SLTB for its aggressive marketing in the United States during last year.
"So last year while we may have had the same number of seats the airfare was close to US$1,100 but at this time American Airlines is offering a special airfare of US$319 return out of 10 gateways. That's a significant difference in the marketplace so we expect to see that trend continue.
"With the episodes of the Bachelor, the launching of the Red Rose Romance getaway, along with TV advertising, internet promotions and with the increase in airlift we are expecting to see the numbers from the US continues to climb.
"In fact we believe that by year end in the US market we would probably be somewhere between a 40 to 60 percent increase in the US market," the Tourism Minister said.
He said before the airing of the reality television shows the average number of hits for the SLTB website was 5,000 daily, but that figure has risen to 68,000.
"The effect of the Bachelor investment will manifest itself during the months of April to August just in time for an additional allocation of airline seats into St.Lucia," he said.