Saint Lucia tourism batting strong, reports director

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NEW YORK, USA — The island of Saint Lucia, known as a leading Caribbean destination for romance and boutique luxury, is embracing a new niche — health and wellness.

The first Saint Lucia Health and Wellness Retreat is set for November 17 to 20 in Soufrière, with the support of the Soufrière Foundation, the Saint Lucia Tourist Board and American Airlines.

Speaking to media and public relations professionals in New York City last month, Director of Tourism Louis Lewis asserted the move to the new niche was a strategic one in line with what was happening internationally.

"To keep apace with global trends, we are now embarking on a key strategy to target the wellness community who are naturally drawn to Saint Lucia’s therapeutic, spiritual and healthy attractions, especially in the southern town of Soufrière," he said.

Soufrière is home to the world famous Pitons, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and contains one of the world’s few drive-in volcanoes where the therapeutic mineral baths await the wellness traveler.

Lewis said many of the island’s top hotels and resorts, including Sandals, The BodyHoliday, Ladera and The Jalousie Plantation, had either expanded or improved their spa facilities. These developments, he added, were natural complements to the romantic allure of the destination.

"We are very serious about this market," Lewis said, adding that the Tourist Board had partnered with American Airlines in New York and Miami on a three month advertising campaign, promoting the destination with colorful signage on taxi cabs and buses this autumn.

Saint Lucia continues to register strong satisfaction based on the exit surveys and the vast majority of visitors continue to recommend the destination to family and relatives, he reported.

"Having someone who had the actual experience and is willing to give positive feedback without being coached, coerced or offered an incentive, is the strongest marketing tool we have," he contended.

The tourism official tipped his cap to a major draw to the island and stated "Saint Lucia will continue batting to our strengths — one of which is our friendly people."

Saint Lucia’s arrivals experience, Lewis confirmed, will soon be elevated markedly when a US$140 million international airport expansion project gets underway next month.

In spite of a global recession and a reduction of airlift over the summer, Lewis reported Saint Lucia was performing creditably this year after leading the Caribbean in tourism growth in 2010 with revenues skyrocketing by more than 30 percent.

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