By Stephen Weir
St Lucia, like many other Caribbean Island nations is deft at first breaking the spirit of winter hating Canadians and then magically opening their wallets to spend, spend, spend. The Caribbean Camera was at the swanky Hotel X at Toronto’s CNE grounds earlier this week and watched as the hex was put on willing travel agents, travel writers, airline reps and crazy jazz fiends!
St Lucia did it just right. Their formula? Fill a room with beautiful people in an equally beautiful room. Turn up the temperature so that it feels almost tropical. Serve rum cocktails and cold cold green label beer. Next stand in front of a big ass TV screen showing gorgeous images of fun loving white millennials frolicking in a moon pool against a backdrop of the twin Piton Peaks.
Next, play some live funky music, give away a couple trips (no we didn’t win) and warn departing guests to watch their backs when they dig out their cars buried in the CNE parking lot.
Last? Give ‘em a brochure and send them out into a howling wind, ankle deep snow and temperatures so cold your beer soaked moustache instantly freezes.
It works. The latest travel data show that Saint Lucia has set a visitor record for stay-over arrivals. Last year the island recorded 423,736 stay-over visitors; the highest in the island’s history. Much of the growth is being attributed to increases in airlift from the US market in particular, which this year, accounted for close to half (45%) of total stay-over arrivals – roughly 191,000 visitors. The tourist board estimates that last year 10% of that total, or 42,000 visitors were from Canada.
While tourism numbers were talked about at the Hotel X event, the main topic was music. With Juno winner Sean James providing the background music, the St Lucia tourist board talked jazz music.
“Jazz has a unique power to bring people together,” explained Cat Henry, the organizer of the annual Jazz at Lincoln Center Festival. First staged in 1992, the spring event features some of the finest names in modern jazz, performing in intimate venues and public settings throughout Saint Lucia. The Saint Lucia Jazz Festival runs this year from May 7 -9.
In other St. Lucia new, their Tourist Board announced that as of April 1st 2020 tourists will have to pay an accommodation fee to be used for destination marketing and development. People staying overnight in hotels, guest houses, villas and apartments will pay a tax from $3.00 to US $6.00 in addition to their nightly charge.