Last night, the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority and Canadian-owned Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort in Saint Lucia welcomed media and travel agents for a special update on tourism to Saint Lucia, and what’s new at the Windjammer, following a $60M USD renovation.
PAX sat down with Dunstan James, director of marketing in Canada, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority; Andrew Ricketts, head of public relations for Canada, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority; Rod Hanna, trade sales manager for Canada, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority; and Kristen Moore, CEO, Destinations of Distinctions, which has the Windjammer resort in its portfolio of luxury villas, resorts, and lodges, to find out what’s new for the destination.
Leah Boyce, consumer sales manager, Canada, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, and Rod Hanna, trade sales manager, Canada, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority.
Fun is on the horizon
With more and more Canadians looking to flee the seemingly never-ending cold weather, a lot of action is taking place over in Saint Lucia right now, especially when it comes to food, parties, and festivals. The Soleil Festival is currently on for its second year in a row, with each month featuring a different theme, like in January, when the Food and Rum festival came to the island. Next up, the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival anticipates the arrival of thousands of jazz fans from around the world, who come together for the sake of good music, good food, and even better company.
Kayaking in Anse.
Here’s what’s hot and happening in Saint Lucia from now until the end of autumn:
- Soleil Festival: January-October
- Saint Lucia Jazz Festival: May 6-13
- Saint Lucia Carnival: July 16-17
- Roots and Soul Festival: Aug. 31 - Sept. 2
- Arts and Heritage Festival: Oct. 19 - Oct. 21
A full list of events can be found at www.stlucia.org/summerfestival.
More reason to celebrate
As representatives of the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority pointed out last night, international visitor traffic to the island is heating up. The biggest market is the United States, followed by the U.K, and then Canada. Saint Lucia is just below the hurricane belt, and therefore, although neighbouring islands Dominica and Guadeloupe suffered heavy damage to natural landscapes and infrastructure, Saint Lucia escaped unscathed. It’s one of the reasons for the increase in passenger arrivals, which have jumped by 33 per cent, after the island set a new record with a total of 1,105,541 visitor arrivals for 2017.
The island also recorded the highest growth for the year among Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) member countries, with an impressive 11 per cent increase. Saint Lucia’s year-to-date arrival figures for the first quarter improved by 23.4 per cent with significant increases recorded in cruise arrivals of 33.4 per cent. An additional 7,349 stay-over arrivals in 2017 were reported, in comparison to 2016.
Travel agents continue to play a crucial role in sending Canadians back to the Caribbean post-Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, and as James pointed out last night, the purpose of the event in Toronto was two-fold.
“Part of our plan for this year is to increase travel agent engagement, and therefore, we’re seeking out more opportunities where we’re able to be in front of our travel agents in order to educate them on our product,” James explained.
“We’ve also added in a Saint Lucia Specialist program for our agents,” added Hanna. “We have them go on there [online] where they can complete a 20-minute course, and once that’s complete, they can then go on the booking monitor and start registering. This lets us see who out there in the travel industry is interested in, and booking Saint Lucia. By doing that, they themselves are going to get rates for hotels and be more on track for FAM trip invites.”
Preserving and promoting culture through village tourism
As any avid traveller to the Caribbean knows, no visit is complete without taking part in a fish fry. The Saint Lucia Tourism Authority is pleased to announce that the Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Dominic Fedee, re-launched the Anse La Raye Friday Night Fish Fry. Anse La Raye is a small fishing town, and the event is an annual street party that sees local fisherman and tourists come together to share local products like spiced rum and of course, as much fish, crab, and seafood you can handle. In total, eight fishing villages have been included in Saint Lucia’s new village tourism concept.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring tourism to the smaller villages so that the residents of Anse La Raye have a chance to participate in the industry and to earn a livelihood,” James said. “We’re seeing a lot of demands for experiential and that’s the angle we’re trying to push this year,” added Ricketts. “We have the Caribbean’s only drive-through volcano with the therapeutic hot springs; there’s really a little bit of something for everyone.”
Petit Piton, Saint Lucia.
This year, the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority is excited to announce several activities for the adventure-seeking traveller, like Bean to Bar, where visitors go through the process of picking a cacao bean, harvest and process it, an by the end of the week, walk out with a chocolate bar from that same single bean they started with. The Pitons are also a three-hour trek to the top, with envious views of the entire island.
During the summer months in Canada, Saint Lucia sees less visitors, and as James explains, it’s due to a reduction in airline lift from Canadian airlines.
“We’re very much a winter destination and during that time there’s non-stop service, but in the summertime when it’s warmer here [Canada], there’s less of an incentive to want to go to the Caribbean, so some of our tour operator partners have reduced their airlift, but with our summer festivals in full swing, we’re trying to increase that airlift back,” James said.
There are currently direct flights into Saint Lucia from Air Canada, WestJet, and Sunwing, and it’s a five-hour direct flight for travellers departing from Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Rebranded for a deeper connection
Back in November, the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority went through an extensive rebrand, positioning tourism efforts with the slogan “Let Her Inspire You.” As the only female island in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia has a wide range of unique experiences for the traveller looking for more than just an all-inclusive vacation.
“Travellers are seeking more unique and rewarding experiences, and we’re well-positioned for that,” James explained. “We have a competitive edge as a romance destination, and we’re Canada’s leading romance destination by the World Travel Award, nine times in a row. According to our visitor surveys, the majority of our travellers come to Saint Lucia for a romantic experience, be it a wedding, a honeymoon, or just a time to get away.”
Several hotels in Saint Lucia offer comprehensive wedding packages, including the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort.
As the Caribbean’s leading honeymoon destination, there are currently no residency requirements for couples planning a destination wedding in Saint Lucia, and the process can be done simply with the help of a wedding coordinator. “You can get off a cruise ship, and for the duration of the time you’re in Saint Lucia, you can get married,” Hanna explained. “You pay the $204 USD fee for your permit, and there’s no lengthy waiting period, so we find many couples enjoy it because there’s no stress, planning, or hassle. You can do everything from taking your vows underwater, to standing under a waterfall, and there are so many locations to get married in Saint Lucia.”
Updates to the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort
“Windjammer is a very unique property in the destination, and there aren’t many others like it that can offer a villa experience with multi-bedrooms, right on a beachfront resort,” explained Kristen Moore, CEO, Destinations of Distinction. “We’re marrying those qualities to experiences for the client, so we offer anything from a one-bedroom to a five-bedroom accommodation, which is great for multi-generational travel or groups of friends. We also have an amazing all-inclusive offering, where guests can enjoy unlimited a la carte dining through various cuisines, unlimited drinks including premium top-shelf brands, and perhaps the best part, unlimited motorized and non-motorized water sports.”
The Windjammer currently wrapped up a $60M USD renovation and enhancement, which included the addition of brand new beach front villas, an expansion of the beach with additional sand imported to double the width, new hammocks on the beach and in the water, a total overhaul of the restaurants and their menus, and a refreshed design for existing rooms. All hilltop rooms offer panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea, with views of Martinique in the distance.
The Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort.
The Windjammer has 133 rooms, including shared villa accommodations and suites, which are most popular with family travellers. One bedrooms are popular with honeymooners or couples, and come equipped with a private terrace, plunge pool and kitchen.
"We can go one step further for our guests and even stock the fridges with the couple’s favourite drinks or foods prior to their arrival, and we can have a chef or butler come in, and make them feel right at home," Moore explained.
The Windjammer has also added a brand new spa that offers a series of treatments and a juice bar. Just like Saint Lucia is known for its romance, the Windjammer is big on destination weddings, and actually has two on-site wedding coordinators to take care of everything. The property only allows one wedding per day, to ensure that the bride has her very own special day, and doesn’t need to worry about sharing her venue with another couple. There are several wedding packages available so that couples can select one that best suits their needs.
“There truly is no other all-inclusive that offers all of these components, and we have amazing rates, with an all-inclusive per person per night rate,” Moore said. “We continue to revamp our specialist program so that agents can get their certificate as a Saint Lucia destination specialist, and once that’s done, they can start earning complimentary all-inclusive nights for themselves.”