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Tourism Minister Looks to South America to Boost Air Travel Into Saint Lucia

Minister for Tourism and the Creative Industries Dr Ernest Hilaire feels there are prospects for Saint Lucia – as a small sub-regional state, to develop bi-lateral trading and air-travel arrangements with South American countries.

Last November, Saint Lucia and Venezuela began talks to facilitate a flight schedule between the two countries.

Speaking to reporters recently on flight prospects between Saint Lucia and Venezuela, the tourism minister said the commencement of the flights has been delayed, due to some preparatory work required before the flights comes in.

“The flight out of Caracas has to be a ‘feeder flight’ for us,” Dr. Hilaire told reporters at a recent media briefing.

“It has to bring in persons from Brazil, Columbia, Argentina and Chile into Caracas and then for the Caracas flights to Saint Lucia, to really make it meaningful as we want it to be,” he explained.

“So, a lot of work is going on now to actually make sure all the feeders are in place,” he added.

Currently, the minister said, there is a team in Columbia, at Roots Americas where they will discuss the matter with airline representatives.

Chairman of the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority [SLTA] Thaddeus Antoine heads the five-member Saint Lucian delegation team. A representative from the Saint Lucia Air and Seaports (SLASPA) is also on the team.

On prospects of entering into trade partnerships with South America, Hilaire declared that South America is a source market that we are looking to develop and that’s why the flight from Venezuela is important. Because once we can get all the feeder lines to come into Caracas, and then from Caracas to Saint Lucia, it will be a tremendous boost for us, for South America.

He said there is scope for the flights to be extended, even to as far as Panama.

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

So, if we can get that right it will open up a whole new market for us, said Hilaire.

Meanwhile, commenting on the recent extended flight services offered by Inter Caribbean Airways, he said, it is an important development within regional air travel routes.
Nonetheless, Hilaire said, the authorities are seeking more options, since last year’s regional data shows that regional travel has increased.

“We are still at about 45 to 50 % of what it was in 2019 so we continue to build those relationships and we have expressed our support for any regional initiative that can bring more flights to Saint Lucia and out of Saint Lucia,” he said.

The minister said that Inter Caribbean Airways will soon extend its outreach to the neighbouring French Territory, and soon there will be the flight option of a return trip from Saint Lucia to Martinique, and on to Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).

We are hoping that this comes onstream, because right now we have no air links between Martinique and Saint Lucia, and that’s hurting us, because Martinique was our biggest source market, regionally. Hilaire said.

However, he says, the ferries ply the sea route and they carry quite a lot of passengers but the air option is not there. So, we are working on that and very soon we will make a formal announcement on it.

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