In the midst of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority [SLTA] is planning to roll out a series of promotional and marketing strategies geared to getting the hospitality sector back on the rebound.
At a press conference this week, an overview of last year’s arrival performance was highlighted along with other key areas pertinent to the industry’s overall developmental thrust.
Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee told reporters that the SLTA is on a drive to implement effective financial strategies, stimulate sustainable promotional campaigns and prepare for the longevity of the industry.
“This will definitely have a positive effect on our destination’s ability to be able to market itself,” asserted Fedee
He noted that in this new global transition, tourism authorities are becoming less reliant on government subsidies and have begun to source out their own marketing funds.
Fedee added: “This essentially is a marketing fund that will go into marketing the destination, so that it could give us a competitive edge so that St. Lucia can become that destination of choice.”
He spoke on the continued execution of the ‘Village Tourism’ projects in several districts across the island.
The parliamentary representative for the Anse La Raye / Canaries constituency made particular reference to renovation works taking place in Anse La Raye.
This project , he explained , entails “building a mini-hotel within the village” as well as work to restore the old fish-fery building, construction of a restaurant on the bay front , and an overhaul of the village square “ where we will see a total transformation of the waterfront.”
Fedee said these projects are designed to enhance the beautification of those districts to become “a tourism destination and it gives yachts that are sailing down the west coast, an alternative community to be able to stop in.”
In addition, he said, this project will create economic opportunities for the villagers and small businesses “to thrive and create jobs in an economically challenged community.”
Referring to the OECS Tourism Development Project, Fedee noted, there has been a long-standing issue in trying to sustain coastlines where “we have not historically optimized the ability to be able to manage our beaches properly.”
The tourism minister said with hundreds of tourists visiting beaches along the west coast, the OECS TDP will be utilized “to open up new locations along the west coast, so Canaries comes into the picture and also Gros Islet and as well we’re looking at added capacity for cruise ship passengers at the Vigie beach.”
Tourism Headed For An Upswing
Despite the economic downturn and other setbacks brought about by the coronavirus, Fedee feels, the sector is headed for an upswing and the authorities are getting set to cash in.
He asserted : “The lockdowns , the destruction that has been caused by covid-19 will not be forever and so we’re taking this opportunity to stimulate construction, but as well use it to properly implement and to solve some of the hurdles that we’ve had to really better manage and develop our industry and enhance our product; from the standpoint of economic development…creating more jobs and making the destination more attractive for hundreds and thousands of people who want to come to our shores.”
He informed reporters that the authorities were currently working alongside several ancillary service providers, which include at least 26 marine companies and more taxi drivers being granted permission to ply their trade at the Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) “so that more people can share in the limited ‘piece of pie’ that we have presently from the economic contributions of tourism.”
The minister added that while the authorities are making every effort to work in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in an effort to safeguard against the coronavirus, they are, at the same time trying to strike a balance in managing and optimizing every opportunity that is available within the tourism sector.
Atlantic Rally For Cruisers
Upon review of other tourist related activities, Fedee said, despite the disturbances caused by COVID-19 they were pleased with the turnout and participation at this year’s annual ARC-Atlantic Rally for Cruisers.
He added: “But all in all we were able to innovate and have some very successful events during the ARC. The reviews we had from World Cruising Club(WCC) were nothing but positive …and from reports that we’re getting for next year’s ARC , suggests there is a waiting list and over 300 boats have registered to come to St Lucia in December, 2021.”
On the issue of arrivals, Fedee notes, “it is anticipated that there will be cutbacks by some airlines in terms of their capacity that will no doubt affect travelers.”
He said this is happening because, for instance, in the United Kingdom (UK) they have “expanded the lockdown across the country.” And in the United States (US) too the matter is also compounded as “there is a prevailing increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and the number of hospitalizations, as well as the stress on the healthcare structure within the US is also going to pose significant challenges on the ability of people to be able to travel.”
Fedee opined that on a more positive note the introduction of vaccines, though with its specific challenges, presents a new approach to combat the coronavirus.
However, the minister declared, “Covid continues to be very fluid, continues to be the virus of great uncertainties, and really we have to do our best to see step by step how we can come out of this and we have to be courageous and innovative in this present time.”