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Hilaire –‘ Bright Prospects’ in Store for Tourism Industry Post COVID-19

Tourism Minister Dr. Ernest Hilaire is optimistic that post-Covid19 ‘bright prospects’ are in store for St Lucia and the region, generally.

Tourism Minister, Dr. Ernest Hilaire
Tourism Minister, Dr. Ernest Hilaire

He recently spoke to Breaking Travel News about his ambitions in his newly appointed role and St. Lucia’s participation at Expo 2020; while also commenting on the destination’s capture of another award as the Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination at the World Travel Awards.

Dr. Hilaire asserted that first and foremost, the government is committed to promoting a ‘tourism industry that is sustainable’ and can withstand the various shocks, such as natural disasters or economic challenges.

The tourism minister says government is set on stimulating an ‘inclusive industry’ that stretches across board to involve people and entities at different economic levels.

“We have a tourism industry that is robust, that can recover quickly whenever there are any shocks. But, also important for us is to ensure that the industry offers many more opportunities to as many people as possible,” declared Dr. Hilaire.

“We do not see the tourism industry as being restricted to a few in terms of participation, ownership and enjoying the benefits of it,” he added.

“We want to introduce a tourism industry that offers authentic experiences to our visitors,” said Dr. Hilaire. “And for that to be successful it has to come from the people, itself.”

The tourism minister indicated that there are bright prospects ahead, in store for the industry. He disclosed: “You will find over the next few years, in St Lucia, a programme that seeks to introduce as much as possible authentic experiences of St Lucia.”

Citing that over the last 18 months it has been a challenging period for the tourism sector, globally, how has St Lucia and the Caribbean generally, managed to adapt to this situation?

“St Lucia has been doing very well with the recovery, since we re-opened in June and we’ve seen very encouraging numbers,” said Dr. Hilaire.

The tourism minister informed that “August, was our best month for arrivals from the United States” and there has also been increasing number of arrivals from the United Kingdom. And with the re-introduction of an Air Canada charter flight to the destination recently, the minister said, robust arrivals are expected from St Lucia’s 4th largest market.

“We are seeing a lot of things happening, the cruise ships are starting to come back and we are seeing an increase in ships. Our numbers for the winter season is quite exciting and we are looking to see a winter season not parallel with 2019, but surely, we will be up there,” Dr. Hilaire said.

He adds that there are also good prospects in store at the regional level, as “we are seeing a robust revival, and we are seeing in some of the islands some very high numbers that they had experienced before Covid …and surely they are returning to those levels.”

Dr. Hilaire is optimistic that the industry can bounce back ‘stronger than ever’, while referring to the ‘products on the ground’ and working with private sector partners to boost the economy.

“We are very aggressive now in ensuring that some of the products get off the ground … like our village tourism, which we are trying to introduce as quickly as possible,” he said. “We want that post-Covid, for St Lucia to be a better destination with a better product and surely we see a lot of investments coming over the next few months… in hotel plans, and in more hotel development.”

The tourism minister envisages  that , “when Covid allows people to open up as much as possible that St Lucia will be so well placed …to offer a better product.”

With the St Lucia delegation representing a key segment of the promotional campaign in Dubai and with lots of money pumped into the event, what has been St Lucia’s offering at the pavilion display?

The St Lucian representatives at the display includes persons with knowledge of the CIP project, investment in St Lucia and the products that are produced locally.

“The pavilion is really a mini-St Lucia in many ways,” explained Dr. Hilaire. “When you enter the pavilion, you actually feel St Lucia…the setting, the décor, the look and feel tells you that you are in St Lucia. You will see manifestations and various presentations that will tell you about the essential personality of St Lucia. The sites that you will see, the products that are available and even the individuals that we have in the pavilion are persons from St Lucia.”

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