Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

*logoSt. Lucia caught a break in the first two months of 2010, with increased airlift from the U.S. and the recent airing of a reality TV show highlighting the destination.

Stayover arrivals rose 11.7% in January and February compared with the same period in 2009, according to the St. Lucia Tourist Board.

In February, the U.S. market grew 42.7%, to 9,822 visitors, compared with 6,884 in February 2009. Officials attributed that growth to additional airlift from JetBlue and increased capacity on Delta.

Visitors from both continental Europe and Canada registered a slight increase. However, the U.K. market fell 8.4%, and the Caribbean market recorded marginal declines in January and February 2010 over the same months in 2009.

To bolster airlift into St. Lucia, the tourist board’s aviation committee is expected to take a more proactive role in developing routes and luring carriers, according to Allen Chastanet, minister of tourism. Part of the plan focuses on the redevelopment of Hewanorra Airport to keep up with market demands, he said.

Increased air services this summer "augur well for St. Lucia’s tourism product, given the high level of competition from other regional destinations," Chastanet said.

From the U.S., JetBlue will jump from three to five flights a week from New York Kennedy. American will double its weekly flights out of Kennedy to four, and it plans to increase capacity aboard its daily 757 service from Miami, from 150 seats to 188 seats.

Delta will continue its daily service from Atlanta and will add two morning flights on Saturdays and Sundays. US Airways will introduce a second weekly nonstop from Charlotte beginning May 9, which will run to Aug. 15.

"In terms of numbers from May through August 2009, St. Lucia had approximately 9,000 airline seats a month from the U.S.," Chastanet said. "This year we will have approximately 24,000 seats a month from May through August."

Following recent episodes of "The Bachelor" reality TV show in which St. Lucia was prominently featured, hits on the website StLuciaNow.com went from 5,000 per day to 68,000 per day.

The Red Rose Romance package, an islandwide hotel promotion capitalizing on the "Bachelor" phenomenon, is part of a five-week campaign that features St. Lucia on major cable networks in the U.S. and Canada.

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