The tourism industry seems to be recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic with arrivals soaring over the past few months according to personnel from the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA).
Officials are hoping that this trend will continue. In 2020, arrivals were noticeably low; the industry, like many others, took a significant hit when the coronavirus emerged.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the SLTA Lorine Charles-St. Jules intimated this much at Saint Lucia’s Destination Immersion Experience last week in Canaries, an event recognised under Saint Lucia’s Collection de Pépites programme which features villas, B&Bs, boutique hotels and inns with 35 rooms or fewer.
“As we move to the first quarter of our highlights today it brought new life to the recovery phase. As you know (when) we started in January we had Omicron but our first quarter we recorded the highest performance level since 2021. In April in particular, we surpassed optimistic visitor arrival projections by 30% and welcomed 30, 661 stayover arrivals recording 12 percent more visitors than in April 2019,” Charles-St. Jules said.
May was another record month, she noted, adding that “as we continued in June 2022, we recorded 30,694 stayover arrivals, only 10 percent less than June 2019. It proved that we were narrowing the gap to achieving normalcy. And I must add (that) Saint Lucia was highlighted as one of the best performing destinations for 2022; the only country in the Eastern Caribbean named in the top five by the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization).”
According to her, the United States accounted for 73 percent of total arrivals, 12 percent more than June 2019. February, April and May were also higher compared to June 2019. The United Kingdom was the largest market for the month of June, accounting for 15 percent of total arrivals.
“We are pleased to report (that) we have almost achieved parity with June 2019 by only 127 visitors down from 2019. June was also the second highest month for the Caribbean. So how did we evolve? What did we do to achieve all those stats? In May 2022 we recorded that over 90 percent of our visitors to Saint Lucia were fully vaccinated so this enabled a very healthy interchange between visitors and the local population,” Charles-St. Jules noted.
Other factors also came into play. The country also waived its COVID-19 protocols which allowed seamless entry into all ports of arrivals and exits. Relationships with various media partners and others also proved to be beneficial.
“We continue to respond to the ever-changing landscapes for our visitor arrivals. The continued increase in stay over arrivals (is) attributed also to sustained airlift, Saint Lucia’s seamless entry port protocols, valuable relations with trade, media and meaningful collaboration between the private sector and the public sector and agencies also assisted,” Charles-St. Jules said.
The CEO also provided an update on the maritime sector. According to her, the SLTA continues to market Saint Lucia as the destination of choice to the cruise and yachting sectors.
The latter, unlike the former, has not been as successful Charles-St. Jules indicated.
“Since the resumption of cruise last year, we’ve welcomed over 22,580 visitors to our shores. The yachting sector, however, has not been as buoyant as the cruise sector so we expect with the recent introduction of our maritime policy that we launched about six weeks ago, to see some improvement in that sector. In addition, (in) the coming fall, we will resume the return of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers which last year netted five million dollars, so we do expect again some further injection in the economy in the following two seasons,” she said.
“All of those stats we welcomed. But how did we get there? What have we done? We continued our marketing initiatives in all of our major source markets. We returned to in-person activities. We went to the U.S.; we started off in Dubai in February (and) we have continued to interface with our trade partners (and) consumer partners. We also went to the U.K., Europe and most recently to the Caribbean where we performed all activations one-on-one. We reminded our partners in particular that we had missed them and we wanted to thank them for being with us over the last year so that of course contributed to our growth,” Charles-St. Jules added.