St. Lucia’s tourism industry is inching closer to putting the last few years behind it.
Thanks to a cluster of high-end hotel developments and the return of its popular festivals and offerings, the destination is reporting that its 2022 tourism figures are starting to resemble those of 2019, before the COVID pandemic turned the industry upside down.
As of October, 2022 has been a record-breaking year for visitor arrivals with the return of events and a significant number of tourism developments aiding the success, said Ernest Hilaire, St. Lucia’s minister of tourism.
In July, St. Lucia had the largest number of stay-over visitors in one month since the COVID-19 pandemic began, said Hilaire. The U.S. market surpassed 2019 numbers in six out of eight months with August alone surpassing 2019 levels by 34 percent, said Hilaire.
And agents are seeing the growth as well.
“St. Lucia has been hot lately and definitely on the top of everybody’s list,” said Emily Bertsch, an advisor with VIP Vacations, Inc., based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Ian Petrulli, an advisor with Holiday Travel International, an affiliate of the Signature Travel Network based in Irwin, Pennsylvania, told Travel Market Report St. Lucia’s recent success has a lot to do with the fact that it has some of the newest, freshest all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean.
And all-inclusives have become especially popular since the beginning of the pandemic as the model offers the ability to isolate amongst other guests and stay on property.
“We have been seeing a lot of interest in Sandals Grande St. Lucian, Royalton St. Lucia [An Autograph Collection All-Inclusive Resort], and Ladera [Resort],” said Petrulli. “All-inclusive is hot right now. The drive seems to be especially from people who did not want to travel because of the testing requirements to get back inside the U.S. They had a big fear of being quarantined in the destination.”
And agents can expect that momentum to continue to grow as St. Lucia continues to roll out fresh product, both all-inclusives and European Plan (EP) hotels.
Hilaire said there are some new luxury brands coming to Saint Lucia, “which illustrates just how sought-after our destination is.”
Among new hotel products already in operation is a boutique property Sol Sanctum Hotel and Wellness Studio, which is an immersive wellness-focused resort where guests can join yoga and tai chi classes, guided meditation sessions and more.
Zoetry Marigot Bay St. Lucia has been “reimagined” as a luxury all-inclusive and will open on December 1, 2022, said Hilaire. It is the first AMR Collection property to open in St. Lucia, said Hilaire.
This summer, the Dream Hotel Group announced that the new 90-key Cas en Bas Beach Resort will open in Cap Estate in the north in 2023.
Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort will debut 25 new rooms in February 2023. In addition, 20 Rondoval Suites are planned for Sandals Regency La Toc next year, Hilaire said.
The Saint James Club Morgan Bay will rebrand as an upscale all-inclusive Secrets property in late 2023. Also, Saint James Club Morgan Bay will rebrand as an AMResorts property.
And in March of 2023, the Eastwinds Resort will debut a major expansion consisting of 48 new rooms and a renovation of 26 existing cottages. This will include a new restaurant, a seaside pool with luxury cabanas, and an expansive wellness center, said Hilaire.
A Courtyard Marriott Hotel is scheduled for completion in 2023 at Pointe Seraphine in Castries, adjacent to the duty-free shopping complex.
Hyatt will build a 345-room luxury Grand Hyatt on the southwestern corner of the island in Choiseul, with views of the Pitons.
Saint Lucia Canelles Resort luxury resort will feature two distinct hotel brands: Dreams and Secrets, managed by AMResorts.
Also, Planet Hollywood Hotels & Resorts could soon be announcing official plans for a new hotel along St. Lucia’s vibrant Rodney Bay area, said Hilaire.
“There is a joint venture between two hotel groups that will be building three hotels along Rodney Bay,” he said during a press dinner during the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Marketplace conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“Planet Hollywood is one,” he said during a dinner at the recent Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Caribbean Marketplace in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “Construction will start. They are going through the planning approvals stages right now and then they will be building along the strip.”
The Planet Hollywood would be located at the site of the old Rex St. Lucia hotel. He did note that there has yet to be a finalized deal.
“We are revisiting previous discussions with Planet Hollywood,” Hilaire told Travel Market Report. “While no final details are confirmed yet, we are in continued conversations.”
And it is expected that those conversations will go well as Planet Hollywood is owned by Blue Diamond Resorts, which has had incredible success recently with its Mystique St. Lucia by Royalton property, which opened in 2018.
“I am super excited to learn about the new Planet Hollywood that will be opening here,” said Bertsch. “The brand is a great option for adults looking for more fun and less romance, and it’s also a perfect option for families with teens and young adults.”
Lorna Francis, general manager of Hotel Chocolat, told Travel Market Report, that 11 Luxe rooms have recently been added to the Rabot Hotel resort.
She also said Hotel Chocolat recently opened its new Project Chocolat, a six-acre site for experiential tourism as chocolate making will be the main activity featured here. All the additional developments were done during COVID, said Francis.
“We used this time to make the expansions needed at the resort, plus create our chocolate-making tour site, which has been very successful thus far,” she said.
Bertsch also advised not to ignore some of St. Lucia’s already-established hotels.
“We’ve actually had a lot of inquires lately for families to St. Lucia,” said Bertsch. “Coconut Bay is our most popular seller for families- the short distance from the airport is a big draw as anyone that has traveled with kids knows less time in a transfer is always better.
“And our other big family seller is the Windjammer Landing Resort,” continued Bertsch. “For those clients looking for something more unique and private, their villas are an incredible value.”
Airlift Closes in on ’19 Numbers
This summer, St. Lucia had 58 percent more seats than in 2021 and is nearly back to its 2019 levels, just 13% shy of the seats offered that year, said Hilaire.
“And once again, since 2019 was a record-breaking year, this signals that our airlift is extremely strong,” he said. “We continue to work with the airlines closely to increase the frequency of flights from our key feeder markets - and introduce airlift from new cities as well.”
The Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival will return in 2023. After a three-year hiatus, the festival will be held May 5-14.
The festival will also return to its original format, including R&B, hip-hop, reggae, and Latin music, as well as a showcase of local artists. The lineup will be announced to the public soon.
Additionally, Hilaire said that the 2023 edition of the Saint Lucia Carnival will be held from July 1-19.
“We are placing special focus on the infusion of culture into the festival,” said Hilaire, “and on welcoming visitors and our family in the diaspora to celebrate the culture that we are so well known for.”