Saint Lucia is looking to boost its tourism numbers this year with new airlinks and hotel openings, but could go further if it weren’t for Air Passenger Duty (APD), its director of tourism has told Travel Daily.
Louis Lewis, director of tourism at Saint Lucia Tourist Board (SLTB) said he hoped the island will see 80,000 UK tourists come in 2013 against the 75,000 it received in 2012. However despite registering a 6% increase in UK visitors in 2012, the number of excursions and tours booked has fallen as higher taxes eat into the budget spent while in the destination.
“The tax puts as a greater disadvantage and our numbers could be so much better,” said Lewis. “2012 was an encouraging year as we had to compete with the Olympics, weather and economic conditions; it was a tremendous achievement.”
Lewis’ target seems obtainable thanks to healthy figures for 2013; a new Thomas Cook flight from Manchester; new hotel developments and marketing campaigns.
The Thomas Cook service will operate weekly from 2 November and Lewis has already met with operators in the region to discuss opportunities, while the island is now home to a Viceroy-branded property. Other developments in the hotel sector include the launch of Freedom Bay under the Six Senses group and Sandals’ new water suites.
“Arrivals up to the end of February are up 10% and forward bookings look quite promising so this year is looking to be a bumper year,” said Lewis. “However we will make sure Saint Lucia will not become overrun with tourists so we will maintain conservative numbers and appeal to discerning travellers.”
Currently in England for the Saint Lucia Month promotional period, Lewis said SLTB will continue to support the travel trade within its campaigns and marketing. Its two-day roadshow, which is held instead of World Travel Market meetings, will return for the third time in September and is hoping to build on the 105 hosted last year (up from 40 in 2011). SLTB is currently focused on its new ‘Elevated Experiences’ campaign that aims to push past visitor expectation and “lift their senses”.
“The campaign plays off the topiary of the mountains and the warmth of the island,” he explained. “We promise to give visitors an Elevated Experience and one they will not forget”.