MONTREAL [TravelWeek] — It is shaping up to be a banner year for Saint Lucia, as the country celebrates its 40th independence anniversary in 2019. Building on its success, the island is undertaking major projects for tourism development, including expanding its airport by 2022. Saint Lucia also wants to expand its hotels to welcome twice as many visitors.
About 40,000 Canadian travellers came to Saint Lucia in 2018, says Rod Hanna, Trade Sales Manager Canada for the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority. “Our goal is to add 5,000 rooms within three years. We can do this because there still are a lot of unoccupied areas. However, we make sure hotel development is respectful of the environment. We have commissioned an agency to work on including a sustainable development strategy into our global tourism development,” he says.
Hanna told Travelweek’s sister publication ProfessionVoyages.com that hotel chains including AMResorts are interested in Saint Lucia.
Others like Sandals Resorts and Sunwing Travel Group, parent company of Blue Diamond Resorts, are expanding their offerings on the island.
Sunwing, with its Royalton Saint Lucia hotel already successful on the island, recently bought the Papillon by Rex Resorts property and transformed and divided it into two resorts: Starfish St. Lucia and the Mystique Royal St. Lucia.
Sandals Resorts meanwhile already has three properties on the island and another one to come in the next two years, near the Sandals Grande St. Lucian.
“Our hotels are always fully booked. Saint Lucia is a very popular destination,” says Guy Archambault, director of business development at Sandals. “We advise people to book at least six months in advance. I think Saint Lucia is the French Polynesia of the Caribbean.”
Celebrations around the 40th anniversary of Saint Lucia’s independence includes events all year long. The festivities kicked off in February. “We are celebrating the history of our island. We went from being a small island and became a huge international tourist destination,” says Tiffany Howard, CEO, SLTA. “We want to celebrate with everyone. This is why locals and visitors will get a lot of discounts – up to 45% on accommodation and other tourist activities. We appear as offering luxury only but you can come here with any budget.”
The cruise segment is also booming and 2019 will be an important year for its development, she added. “We now need to work on our infrastructure to continue growing in this segment with high potential for our island.”
Saint Lucia won an award for ‘Best Honeymoon Destination in the Caribbean’ in 2018, for the 10th year in a row. “We do not need Instagram filters, our destination is really magical and romantic,” says Howard.