THERE seems to be some good news coming out of the tourist sector, at least for the month of July. However, of what relevance is that to St. Lucians if many claim they are not benefiting from such good news?
But Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee says there is no point in talking about growth if one cannot talk about its relevance to the people.
“The government is working feverishly to ensure that we enact policies that will allow St. Lucians to benefit from the growth that we see,” he said.
This week, Fedee spoke of the need for a revolutionary policy decision that would ensure the majority of St. Lucians benefit from tourism. He mentioned the village tourism initiative, to be launched later this year, as one such initiative that would get St. Lucians more involved in the sector.
“We will be undertaking training and building the capacity of our vendors and local craft artisans so that they can see greater benefits from the main economic driver, which is tourism,” he said.
The good news coming out of the sector of late is the 38, 291 stay-over visitors recorded in July, 3,000 more than was recorded in July last year.
According to Fedee, all major markets — except Canada — are on the up. The bad news out of Canada is the loss of a West Jet flight.
“Arrivals from the key European countries like Germany, England and France are also trending upwards and make for very encouraging reading for the sector. The U.S. market is very encouraging. We see a 14.6 percent increase and year-to-date from the U.S., which is our largest market, is a 6 percent (increase), which is pretty phenomenal when one takes into consideration the number of people coming from the U.S.,” Fedee said.
Fedee said the U.S. currently represents close to 50 percent of total arrivals in the stay-over category.
“We also see strong performance from the Caribbean, led mostly by arrivals from Martinique, which increased by 25 percent, and Trinidad, which increased by 6 percent. Together, these islands make up two-thirds — or 66 percent — of arrivals from the Caribbean,” he said.
With regards to the cruise sector, there was a decline in the numbers for July this year compared to the same period last year. But, according to Fedee, the cruise industry is still performing very strongly with a 19 percent increase.
“When the new, expanded and improved berthing facility at Pointe Seraphine opens in January, we will be able to host megaships and double the capacity of some of the ships that will be calling at that particular facility. So we are going to see improved and increased numbers,” Fedee said.
With the cruise season set to open in November, Fedee attempted to allay the fears of the sectors that depend on cruise ship passengers regarding interruptions to the flow of passengers the construction of the berth at Pointe Seraphine may cause.
He said the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA) and the Tourism Authority have a plan which will ensure that the other three berthing facilities in the Castries Harbour will be open and fully operational so that the impact of the construction will be very small.
“We are also working with a number of the cruise lines to do some anchorage outside the harbour so that the opportunity for an expanded and sustained cruise performance would be there,” Fedee said.