CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Despite industry challenges, Saint Lucia has been able to realize a 4% increase in tourist arrivals.
Minister for tourism, heritage and the creative industries, Lorne Theophilus, made the announcement during the presentation of the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure 2014/15 at the House of Assembly on Tuesday.
“In collaboration with various industry partners... we have seen an increase in our numbers this year. Stay over arrivals have increased by nearly 4%,” he said.
The tourism minister revealed that Saint Lucia’s traditional source markets were thriving.
He added that Saint Lucia's tourism officials are anticipating a positive effect from the reduction in the United Kingdom’s Air Passenger Duty (APD).
“We experienced some 11%... an increase in numbers from what is our largest markets -- the United States. In the United Kingdom, despite the challenges with continuation of the APD , and we are hoping that with our efforts, the joint efforts of the various governments and the Caribbean Tourism Association, we have seen a movement away, a different band has been given so that there can be a reduction in the APD come April next year,” Theophilus said.
The minister also cited the Caribbean as a vital source market, particularly the French Departments, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, having already contributed to increases in arrivals to Saint Lucia, for this year.
Theophilus noted that he was challenged to do more with less, an apparent reference to a disclosure by deputy prime minister Philip J. Pierre that the travel budget has been cut significantly, in keeping with the need to reduce expenditure.
The 2014/2015 allocation for travel in the ministry of tourism is $122,296 and Pierre said this cannot compare to monies “squandered” by the former minister for tourism Allen Chastanet on travel and phone bills.
"In 2009, the former minister's travel cost was $183,396. In 2010, $236, 586 was spent. In 2011, $200,191 was the bill associated with the former tourism minister. To add insult to injury, in 2011, Chastanet's telephone bill was $134,460,” Pierre said.
Chastanet, a former appointed senator, is now the political leader of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) but failed to win a seat in parliament at the last election in 2011.