Prime Minister Allen Chastanet announced a huge road construction project at the recent 2018 North America Showcase in St. Lucia, but that was just part of a fact-filled update on attractions, events, infrastructure, and hotels.
“We’ve revamped our events,” said Chastanet, offering the jazz festival as an example. “Like many jazz festivals, it had stopped being a jazz festival. We brought it back to what it had been before: a genuine boutique jazz festival.” Instead of staging the concerts in the north, the organizers dispersed them to the villages. Chastanet also predicted more music events focused on Groovy Soca, a popular export from Demery, one of the Village Tourism destinations. Castries is part of the Village Tourism project, too. “We’re about to spend 12 million to upgrade the market,” said the prime minister, “and we’ve put a ban on products sold there that are not made in the Caribbean.”
There’s plenty of hotel news, as well.
- Chastanet described Sandals’ fourth resort in St. Lucia, which is now under construction, as “their first six-star property, with 375 suites and a lot of new amenities.”
- Demolition of the middle part of the Rex property begins this week, he said, “and we hope to start seeing construction within the next six months.”
- Next to where the St. James Club Morgan Bay is, “we’re going to see either a Hyatt or a Margaritaville,” said Chastanet.
- A Marriott Courtyard will open in Castries.
- Fairmont already has equipment on its site between Vieux Fort and Soufriere.
- AmResorts will build its first St. Lucia property on the Honeymoon Beach site.
- Boutique properties (scroll down to the Pearl of the Caribbean project) will open in the south, too.
- In total, said Chastanet, “the goal is to add 2,000 rooms in the next two years—a 50 percent increase.”
- In addition to the push to augment village tourism, Prime Minister Chastanet said that the thermal baths will be upgraded and a new spa will be built at the sulfur springs.
- A rum distillery will invest $50 million on a world-class museum. That’s a lot of money, but remember: Rum drove the economies—and, therefore, colonialism—on most major Caribbean islands. Without it, their history would have been different, and that means their 21st-century cultures, populations, economies, and even landscapes would be different.
- A Pearl of the Caribbean project will include a marina, a casino, shopping, waterfront villas, mostly boutique hotels, and “an international race track built by the folks who own the Triple Crown Winner, Justify. They’re in business with many of the top horse farms in the world,” said Chastanet. And this isn’t just a project on the distant horizon; the first race is scheduled for February 10, 2019.
- Not only are roads being improved, but a new cruise ship terminal is planned for the Vieux Fort area. “We have a cruise ship company coming down here hopefully to finalize the deal,” reported Chastanet. This terminal would be able to accommodate ships that carry up to 6,000 passengers, and it would be just one mile from the airport. Not surprisingly, he added, “We’re in advanced discussions on getting a major cruise ship company to make this a home port.”
- Speaking of the airport, the goal is to build a new terminal and to separate charter a regularly scheduled flights for the sake of speed and efficiency. Moreover, St. Lucia and Intercaribbean Airways are in talks that could make the new terminal facilities a mini-hub for nearby islands such as Dominica, Grenada, Martinique, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
On other fronts, the government is reducing the traditional taxes to hoteliers but adding a head tax that will go exclusively to the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, which will no longer have to work within the government budget stream. “The vast majority of that money, will be used for marketing,” said Chastanet.
The prime minister made one other thing clear, too: Despite the welcoming of large properties associated with Sandals, AMResorts, and Royalton Luxury Resorts, “We believe in smaller properties,” he said. “What’s made St. Lucia successful is boutique properties that offer a unique charm and customer service.” He promised that they will be an important of St. Lucia’s future.