For the first half of 2013, visitor arrivals to St. Kitts registered 2 percent year-over-year growth.Hotel development, expanded airlift for the coming winter season and strong numbers for summer arrivals, coupled with an increase in cruise calls in the 2013-2014 season, paint a robust portrait of St. Kitts tourism eight months into this year.

"We've seen encouraging results from our efforts to boost summer arrival numbers," said Ricky Skerritt, minister of tourism and international transport.

"Between our 'Fall in Love' value-added program, the 'Kids R VIPs' discount package and our Music Festival in June with headliner Lionel Richie, we have positively impacted the low season," he said.

Festivals do pump up visitor numbers, Skerritt said, pointing out that all key gateways serving St. Kitts had significantly higher traffic in the week surrounding the musical event.

"American's daily nonstop from Miami had 100% load factors on three festival days," he said.

Regarding air arrivals, a long-term, proactive approach to building and supporting airlift from key source markets has been bearing fruit, according to Skerritt.

For the first half of 2013, visitor arrivals to St. Kitts registered 2% year-over-year growth compared with the same period in 2012.

Skerritt said the growth was driven by a 5.2% jump in arrivals from North America, the primary source market.

The Port Zante cruise port will see improvements and upgrade.He attributed increased visitor arrivals, in part, to new lift from the U.S. that began last winter with the addition of two nonstop flights on American from Miami on Fridays and Sundays to supplement its daily Miami flight and to Delta's upgrade of aircraft size on the Atlanta-St. Kitts route.

Giving an early boost to winter traffic this year and to meet the continued increase in market demand, Delta's seasonal weekly nonstop from Atlanta will kick in on Nov. 2, seven weeks earlier than last year.

American also operates a twice-weekly nonstop from New York Kennedy, and US Airways offers a weekly service out of Charlotte.

On the cruise side, St. Kitts is projecting passenger arrivals to top 650,000 in the 2013-2014 season and to exceed 700,000 in the next season, when Royal Caribbean International's Quantum of the Seas makes six calls.

"The fact that Royal Caribbean included St. Kitts as a port of call for this new ship is a testament to the quality of the destination's expanding infrastructure," Skerritt said.

"St. Kitts can provide an authentic Caribbean experience that clearly appeals to cruise passengers," he said.

To gear up for the expected increase at the port, design planning and engineering are under way, in consultation with the St. Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority and cruise operators, so that construction can be completed on a $31 million second mega-pier by November 2014.

Skerritt said that the existing facilities at Port Zante would benefit from the new construction.

The plans include improvements, such as landscaping, signage, the addition of a VIP excursion area, a redo of the Amino Craft Market and the hiring of additional taxi drivers to handle traffic at the pier.
Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.


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