St Kitts puts bet on high-end tourism market

BASSETERRE, St Kitts, June 26, 2008 – St Kitts and Nevis Tourism Minister Richard Skerrit says this twin-island nation will continue to focus on attracting luxury travellers despite the current economic climate of soaring fuel prices, high air fares, inflation and a sagging United States dollar.

“We’ve got challenges, to be sure, but I’m reading the right market,” he was quoted as saying in Travel Weekly.
“The luxury market continues to look for investment opportunities in second and third homes,” he said. “St Kitts is a fresh opportunity.”
However, he admitted that the current economic scenario forces travellers to be more creative and careful in their quest for vacation experiences.

“More than 50 per cent of our revenue comes from tourism. St Kitts has to fight for market share where there is growth,” Mr Skerrit said, adding that it is in the luxury market where the growth is the fastest and the economic situation is having the least impact. “We need 200,000 visitors a year to have a vibrant industry. We do not need to play to the mass market.”
The Tourism Minister said that developments currently under construction on St Kitts demonstrated that the focus on big spenders instead of mass tourism was proof that the country was going in the right direction.

The Christophe Harbour Resort and Residential Development on the Southeast Peninsula includes luxury brands such as Kiawah Development Partners, Auberge Resorts and Mandarin Oriental. 
“One in every three clients targeted by Kiawah, for example, already indicated that they were considering St Kitts as a place to do business and to purchase vacation homes,” Mr Skerrit said.
Other projects under construction include Kittitian Hill in the northern part of the island, which is taking shape as a sustainable Caribbean community, including a village with a creative arts centre, villas, apartments, a cottage hotel, a spa and golf course.

The 40-acre Ocean’s Edge condominium resort development in the Frigate Bay area includes beachfront apartments; two-bedroom, hillside units with plunge pools; garden cottages; and three-bedroom and four-bedroom villas.
First-quarter visitor figures this year indicate a turnaround from last winter, when Mr Skerritt said the island was “clobbered” with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative issue and US arrivals dropped by nine per cent, resulting in flat growth for 2006.