Love in St. Lucia

With its lush, mountainous landscape, serene beach settings and intimate, luxurious resorts, St. Lucia’s romantic appeal is hard to deny. So naturally, you voted to give the island its fifth consecutive Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award for the Sexiest Romance/Honeymoon Destination in the Caribbean.

“St. Lucia is very lush, and has amazing flora and fauna, unspoiled beaches and award-winning accommodations,” says Wanda Octave, the St. Lucia Tourist Board’s director of marketing. “It really is a storybook island fit for romance.”

From the moment they check in, Octave says, clients traveling as couples are surrounded by romance. “There are dozens of resorts located throughout St. Lucia that seek to provide a unique experience for couples at all stages in their relationships,” Octave explains. Whether they’re adventure seekers, high-end travelers, or anything in-between, Octave says, “St. Lucia provides special all-inclusive or newlywed packages” to suit any couple’s needs.

But it’s not just about the resorts, says Shauna Sacco, v.p., Caribbean product of fellow Readers’ Choice Award winner GOGO Worldwide Vacations, which takes home its third consecutive award for Best Tour Operator, Caribbean. Sacco says she sees, “…a lot of honeymoon traffic to that destination, because there’s so much more to do in that destination for honeymooners. Everything revolves around the honeymoon market.” From its famous drive-in volcano, to hiking, snorkeling and diving excursions, Sacco says, “it’s a great adventure island. They have the rainforest and the volcano and all the different tours. There are really amazing things to do there. It’s stuff that’s romantic, but also adventurous, too.”

Sacco would know—with a full roster of properties and programs throughout the Caribbean, GOGO is a master of serving agents’ needs in the region. “We support agents, we don’t compete with them,” Sacco explains. “We don’t deal with consumers directly, so our entire focus is on supporting and taking care of agents constantly.”

agent support In fact, agents are an important part of St. Lucia’s success in tourism, in the romance market, adventure travel market and beyond. So naturally, the tourist board has a vested interest in keeping agents engaged, so to speak, in educating themselves and their clients about the offerings available in this uniquely romantic destination. “The tourist board, in conjunction with industry partners, kicked off a road show in September 2009, scheduled to stop in 27 cities in the U.S. and Canada by November,” Octave says. “The purpose of the road show was to invite members of the travel industry to learn more about the happenings of St. Lucia, so they could communicate the accessibility and affordability to their clientele—including honeymooners and romance travelers.”

looking forward Agents can expect to see St. Lucia’s tourist market expand on all fronts in the coming year, according to Octave. It’ll be easier than ever before to get to the island, for starters. “We are very excited about the recent launch of JetBlue direct services from New York to St. Lucia, which started on Oct. 26,” she says. The airline operates three flights weekly from New York to St. Lucia’s Hewanorra International Airport. Additionally, Octave says, “American Airlines has increased its schedule to the island” as well. “With low rates and increased service, travelers can get to St. Lucia more easily and affordably.”

The new year will bring even more reasons to visit St. Lucia, too. “Once visitors are on island, they will have new properties to choose from,” Octave continues, pointing to a new and particularly unique property, Hotel Chocolat, scheduled to open in February as both a boutique hotel and working cocoa plantation. Existing hotel properties also have renovations planned for 2010, including Marigot Bay Hotel, which reopened this fall with an upgraded beach, a new beach club, and two new restaurants. Rendezvous, a couples-only resort, also completed renovations in the fall, with a new, modernized look and feel. And The Landings, A Rock Resort, plans to have completed phase three of its development by the start of the new year, adding self-contained apartments both for rent and sale.