TOURISM officials were all smiles on Tuesday when they announced the tourism figures for the first five months of this year.
Director of Tourism, Louis Lewis told the media that between January and May, stay-over arrivals increased by 5.5% over the same period last year. Total stay-overs during that period stood at 159,077.
On a year-to-date comparison, the U.S. – the island’s strongest market segment – went up by 8.9% while the Canadian market grew by 9%. The Caribbean market grew by 21%, buoyed principally by the French market. Statistics indicate that at the end of May, 22,142 visitors from the Caribbean came to Saint Lucia. However, the length of stay for the Caribbean segment was shorter, he said.
The island’s second-largest market segment, the United Kingdom, did not fare so well, dipping by 7.8% over the year-to-date comparison period. Lewis said the depreciation of the pound sterling against the U.S. dollar was a major factor for the drop which resulted in an increase in the cost of the average U.K. visitor’s vacation to the Caribbean.
Visitor arrivals via cruise vessels went up by 3% over the past year, representing an additional 4,000 visitors to the island. Lewis said yachting arrivals continue to remain “positive”, adding that entry requirements for yachts have improved considerably.
“We have been able to maintain that growth in arrivals despite the fact that one of our significant properties of at least 300-room capacity was out of the market for the month of May. However, we were able to grow by 7.2% in May,” Lewis said.
According to SLTB officials, figures for the first four months of this year were the highest ever recorded. Also, last month’s 29,658 arrival figure was the highest ever recorded in history for the month of May.
Lewis said on-island expenditure continues to grow at a faster pace than the increase in arrivals. He singled out the high quality of the product and the wide range of opportunities for people to engage in activities outside of the hotel plant, as well as the synergies between the industry’s players as reasons for such successes.
Lewis said the SLTB continues to negotiate for direct airlift from key markets to Saint Lucia. He said a direct service from Chicago to Saint Lucia via United is scheduled to take flight in December. Additional service on U.S. Airways between Saint Lucia and New Jersey – a major hub in the Tri-State area — is also expected to come on stream, he said.