CASTRIES, St. Lucia -- Buoyed by a strong winter market and a peak
season that shows little sign of petering out before July, tourism
officials are optimistic that St. Lucia will break the 100,000 U.S.
visitor mark this year.
Peter Hilary Modeste, director of tourism, said U.S. arrivals
were up 7% in February and 6% in March over the same months last
year, and "the hotels were chockablock in April."
"Hoteliers report strong bookings through July," he said.
The numbers reveal that first-quarter occupancies increased each
month in the all-inclusive resorts, ranging from 76.6% in January
(up from 64.9% in January 2003) to 91.7% in February (up from 78.3%
in February 2003) and 82.7% in March (up from 76% in March
First-quarter occupancy figures decreased slightly for
conventional hotels and rose a modest amount for small properties
(under 75 rooms).
Although final April figures were not yet in, Modeste said he
expects May to be "a bumper month for St. Lucia."
"The nine-day jazz festival, which runs through May 16, and a
series of important cricket matches between teams from the West
Indies and England will fill our hotels," he said.
A gradual shift in the length of the peak season could account
for the spread in bookings, Modeste said.
"Whereas April traditionally marked the end of the peak season,
we are now seeing that trend continue to July," he said.
St. Lucia's focus and emphasis on the wedding and honeymoon
markets "may account for this shift in booking patterns," Modeste
The director also credited the April launch of Delta's
twice-weekly service from Atlanta as providing easier access to St.
Lucia from the Midwest and West Coast. Delta also has a code-share
agreement with Air Jamaica.
Modeste said that tourism officials, who set "certain targets
for U.S. markets this year," would evaluate 2004 in comparison with
"The best way to judge this year and last year is to measure
those two years against the 10 consecutive years of increased
arrivals through 2000," he said.
In comparing last year with 2002, St. Lucia saw a 9.3% increase
in arrivals for 2003, including a 4.3% increase from the U.S.
The tourism director looks forward to the Nov. 4 start-up of
American's year-round daily service from Miami and said tourism
officials are "optimistic about the U.S. market, both from the
airlift picture and from the hotel angle. We see improvements in
our major markets."
Upcoming events that could help boost arrival figures include
Fisherman's Feast, June 19; Kids' Summer Safari, a monthlong event
in July; Emancipation Day and National Heroes Day, Aug. 1; and
Creole Heritage Month in October.
For information on events, visit www.stlucia.org or
call (888) 4-STLUCIA.
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].