On Dec. 19, 2018 American Airlines will be doubling its weekly Miami-Saint Lucia flights from seven to 14, and that’s just one carrier and just one gateway. Saint Lucia, you might say, is spreading its wings. During Caribbean Week NYC I sat down with Hon. Dominic Fedee, the tourism minister, for his views on what’s happening.
A $100 million project in the pipeline to expand the airport’s capacity “is essential,” declared Minister Fedee, because he wants to be ready for Saint Lucia’s rapid growth. For example, year-to-date arrivals from the U.S. are up 15 percent over an already robust 2017, during which there were 1.1 million arrivals. About 65 percent, or two out of three of those arrivals were from the United States.
Royalton recently established a foothold in Saint Lucia, “and now the fourth Sandals on our island has started construction, as has Fairmont. At some point, there’ll be a new Ritz-Carlton, too,” the minister noted. “We have about 6,000 rooms, 5,000 of which are in hotels and condos, and we could have another 2,000 in four years.”
In addition to encouraging hotel expansion, Lucian tourism authorities have also embraced experiential travel. “We’re focusing more on millennials,” said Fedee. “We want to give them a more unique experience.” But it’s not just for millennials. “We are converting eight of our villages, with their chattel houses and rum shops, into tourism assets, making sure the infrastructure, amenities, and culinary experiences are there. Three of the villages will be ready by January, and so will downtown Castries, where we’re adding Carnival parades and opportunities for visitors to enjoy cocktails with fresh fruit and Lucian chocolate tea. We’re also reviving the market.”
The tourism business generally ignored Saint Lucia’s chattel houses for decades, so Minister Fedee is pleased to see the restorations in these villages. The chattel house in Castries where Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright Derek Walcott lived is now a museum, and the minister admires how Fond Doux Plantation & Resort preserves an old cacao farm and chattel houses. “Today visitors want to experience who we really are; they want authenticity,” he said. “That’s what Prince Charles wanted when he came here.”
Fedee also reminded this reporter that “the soca revolution was born in Saint Lucia. Dennery Segment and the new genre of soca are from our island. And this is of value to tourism as well as to our heritage.”
In his focus on helping visitors have a more unique and authentic experience, the minister concluded, “we are seeing a lot of growth and a lot of change. And that means a lot of opportunities for our travel partners.”
For more information on Saint Lucia and its specialist program, visit stlucia.org.
To read about why tourism in the Cayman Islands is booming, click here.