As the temperatures continue to drop here in Canada, Saint Lucia remains sunny and hot.
Yesterday evening, the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority held an event at Toronto's Hotel X to provide an update on the destination and what's in store for 2020, including the highly-anticipated summer festival line-up. Saint Lucia's very first festival took place in 1992 (the jazz festival), and has now grown to welcome at least one per month, all year round.
Back in November 2019, the SLTA reported seven record-breaking months of visitor increases, with September being the most popular on record. Canadian arrivals jumped by 20 per cent, and as it stands, all signs point to a continued growth trajectory for the island in 2020. Air Canada, Sunwing, and WestJet all currently provide direct flights to the island, with Air Canada now flying daily until the end of April.
"Saint Lucia has consistently been steady in the market," Beverly Nicholson-Doty, CEO, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) explained. "Having the convenience of those direct flights, coupled by our great hotel product and the diversity of everything to see and do on the island are all reasons for the number of visitors continuing to grow."
Now, SLTA is now gearing up for festival season, which officially kicks off in May with the Jazz Festival followed by Carnival in June and July. The Roots and Soul festival arrives in the late summer, and then Creole Heritage Month takes place in the fall.
"There's a series of festivals that give added value and a reason to visit Saint Lucia between May and October, but Saint Lucia continues to be a good idea year-round," Nicholson-Doty said.
Ready for another record-breaking year
On the heels of its record-breaking arrivals for 2019, Nicholson-Doty said that the island continues to invest in the tourism sector in order to meet the demands of a growing number of international visitors.
More than 40,000 Canadian visitors came to the island last year, prompting tourism officials to get started on some exciting new projects.
"We're excited that the market has been on a steady incline," NIcholson-Doty said.
Plenty of new hotels are on the way, like the Saint Lucia Canelles Resort, managed by AMResorts, which just broke ground a few days ago. As for an opening date, Nicholson-Doty says that "until construction starts in earnest, it's really hard to give a forecast; they're saying between 18 and 24 months."
There's also a brand new cruise port being built on the south end of the island, which will not only support more arrivals, but will provide economic support and job opportunities for local communities in lesser-known parts of Saint Lucia.
"Our Prime Minister signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) in October with Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line for enhancement for the Port of Castries, but also for building a brand-new home porting facility in the south," Nicholson-Doty said. "Overall, we're looking at how we build our tourism numbers, both through the stay-overs and the cruise passengers, and we think that the great thing about building a new port in the south is that it now allows us to spread out our arrivals across the island."
The new port will accommodate the largest class of cruise ships, further boosting tourism arrivals to Saint Lucia.
What's the nightly accommodation fee really about?
Earlier this month, news broke that the Saint Lucian government and the SLTA had implemented a new nightly accommodation fee, meaning that as of April 1, any and all guests arriving to the island would have to pay US$3.00 and US$6.00 respectively on a nightly rate below or above US$120.
As Nicholson-Doty explains, travel agents are not responsible for taking the fee into account when booking their clients, as the resort is in charge of collecting the fee from each guest upon departure.
"Being able to have a revenue-funding source that has a specific targeted purpose, which is the marketing of Saint Lucia, is what this fee is dedicated to," Nicholson-Doty explained. "It gives us more control, because when you are dependent on government funding as a source of revenue, it's always contingent on what's happening, and there are always priorities. This way, we're not competing with healthcare or education; there's a specific revenue stream intended for the marketing of Saint Lucia."
The first festival of the year, Saint Lucia's Jazz Festival runs this year from May 7-9 at the Lincoln Center.
For a full list of events and festivals taking place in 2020, click here!
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