Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

The formation of St. Lucia's National Tourism Council on May 24 to improve the management of tourism on the island is making one man's job a bit easier.

As minister of tourism information and broadcasting, Dominic Fedee admitted he had been spread a bit thin.

"There are many different government agencies in St. Lucia involved in some way in tourism, as well as a number of private-sector groups," he said, "so this council has made my life easier by bringing everyone together under one dedicated institution to create a more cohesive approach to tourism.

"The National Tourism Council is designed to address issues that affect the sector: develop tourism strategies, policies, branding, campaigns and initiatives; streamline our marketing; reduce operating costs; and ensure that our investment opportunities thrive," he said.

Regarding tourism, according to Fedee, St. Lucia has a lot going on.

For example, the long awaited redevelopment of the Hewanorra Airport in Vieux Fort in the south of the island will take flight very soon.

Construction is slated to start later this year on construction of a new airport to replace the existing facility "to place St. Lucia on par with other international destinations," according to Fedee.

Hewanorra welcomed more than 368,000 air arrivals in 2017, an 11% increase over 2016.

"We're growing by 9.5% so far this year," Fedee said. "In March alone, we registered a 17.9% jump in air arrivals over March 2017. This airport is maxed out, and the new airport is part of our comprehensive vision for growth, which includes 4,000 new hotel rooms in next five to six years to complement our existing inventory of 5,500 rooms.

"We have to have an airport that can handle this influx of visitors."

St. Lucia's visitor arrivals topped an all-time high of 1.1 million in 2017, including a rise of 27% in the cruise sector, to more than 669,000 passengers. Fedee said that 800,000 cruisers are projected this year, and Q1 cruise figures showed 355,821 cruise passenger arrivals, an increase of 13.5%.

"We spent $15 million to expand our port capacity to accommodate larger vessels," he said. "The berth extension at Pointe Seraphine is credited, in part, for the significant increases. The Freedom-class Anthem of the Seas made its first port call in January, and on May 16 we welcomed the Freedom of the Seas, which has a capacity of 6,000."

A project close to Fedee's heart is that of village tourism, which he described as "giving meaning, expression and authenticity to local tourism."

The Ministry of Tourism is setting up an entity to market and brand eight villages in St. Lucia, including Gros Islet, a small community near the northern tip of the island; Anse La Raye, a west coast fishing village that features a weekly fish fry on Fridays; Dennery, an east coast fishing village; and Soufriere on the west coast with a view of the Pitons.

"We want visitors to come visit these villages to experience local life, our people and our customs; they can meet potters and cooks, basket weavers and fishermen and experience the life of a thriving village," Fedee said.

Another project on the drawing board is the transformation of the craft and food markets in Castries to create a market center that will include food stations, mixology offerings, a bakery and a coffee shop on the waterfront. The market is slated to be in place in January.

"We want to bring the market area alive to capture the essence of St. Lucia every day, not just during our Carnival season," he said. "This differentiates our product, especially for cruise passengers when they visit Castries." 

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