CASTRIES, St Lucia, Tuesday January 22, 2019 – St Lucia has recorded its best performance ever in visitor arrivals, as it welcomed 1,218,294 visitors in 2018. That number represents a 10.2 per cent increase over 2017, which was also a record-setting year for the island.
Industry figures are up across the board led by the yachting sector with a 25.9 per cent increase over last year’s numbers. Cruising is up by 13.6 per cent; and stay-over arrivals have increased by 2.2 per cent.
At a news conference to announce the latest figures, Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee highlighted some of the steps that have been taken to reposition St Lucia’s tourism product to compete among the leading destinations in the world.
“We have a very small tourism marketing budget – around US$13 million – so we have to ensure that our efforts are targeted. We use a scientific approach to select the areas where we can reach the most visitors with the highest net-worth in our marketing campaigns. For us, these areas are, predominantly, in the north-eastern USA (the Tri-state and Boston), the south-east UK region of London and its surrounding suburbs and the Greater Toronto area in Canada,” he said.
The island continues to record strong numbers in its major generating markets of the United States and the UK, realizing growths of 4.1 per cent and 4.9 per cent respectively. Stayover arrivals from Canada dipped slightly (5.6 per cent) due, in part, to the absence of service from Transat Tours and a reduction in frequency of WestJet flights.
The St Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) also focused on the Martinique market, which is the highest yielding in the Caribbean, and launched “Caribcation” in the summer of 2018 as a platform for Caribbean travelers, whose numbers grew by 1.6 per cent over 2017.
A record, 760,306 cruise passengers visited the island during the period, owing to an expansion of Berth #1 at Pointe Seraphine, which allowed Port Castries to accommodate Vista, Quantum and Freedom Class vessels.
Projections for 2019 look good, with British Airways pacing at 17 per cent and Virgin Holidays at 27.9 per cent over 2018. Condor has started an inter-airline agreement with LIAT on service from Frankfurt, Germany to Antigua and onto St Lucia from January 7 to March 31, 2019, and a number of other major airlines have expanded their service to the destination.