Travel Agent recently conducted a Q & A with St. Lucia’s acting Director of Tourism Louis E.A. Lewis, who told us he expects the island to reign as the Caribbean king in the years ahead.
Catamarans on the shores of St. Lucia
"In the next five years, I see St. Lucia as the leading tourism destination in the Caribbean, with a good mix of resorts, numerous attractions for out-of-property activities and strong linkages to the rest of the economy,” he told us. “This will materialize not by
wishful fantasy but as a result of the deliberate policies and decisions that are taking place now to guide the expansion of tourism as the sector to lead the country’s growth in the future.
“My primary goal as the acting director of tourism is to ensure that St. Lucia is well marketed as a premier tourist destination with an eye toward increasing arrivals to the country,” he told Travel Agent. “However, that growth must be balanced, sustainable and consistent with our broader development objectives as an island nation.”
“Currently, our relationship with travel agents is good,” Lewis says. “Despite the developments in technology and the increasing use of the Internet as the platform for research, agents continue to play a pivotal role in the decision-making process of travelers. With this in mind, the St. Lucia Tourist Board will continue to work strategically with travel agents who feature our mix of accommodation and product offerings. We continue to have an occupancy level that averages in the upper 60 percent range, with dips in particular months. The objective is to work with all partners, travel agents included, to increase the overall flow while minimizing the variations.”
Travel Agents’ Role
And while the anticipated suspension of Air Jamaica flights is expected to take place in April, Lewis notes that new additions will fill the void.
American Eagle recently launched new daily flights to San Juan via Hewanorra Airport in St. Lucia, while American Airlines has introduced new nonstop service between New York and St. Lucia. In addition, several charter airlines, including Westjet, Sunwing, Sunquest, Canada’s Air Transat and Excel Airways from the U.K., will help boost the island’s winter travel opportunities, Lewis says.
“The suspension of the Air Jamaica flights is definitely unfortunate,” Lewis told us. “Airlift into St. Lucia is always going to be of critical importance as our tourism industry grows and develops. In the past year, Air Jamaica brought St. Lucia approximately 15,000 visitors. However, that lost capacity will now be shared with the existing scheduled service providers like Delta, US Airways and the new services of American Airlines via Miami and New York.”
Idyllic serenity on the shores of St. Lucia in the Caribbean.
What Lewis Brings to the Table
Lewis was first an economist in the Ministry of Finance for four years. He later took up an appointment with the St. Lucia Tourist Board to start up and head its Research and Statistical Department and continued in that role for three years before moving to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in St. Kitts and Nevis as an economic statistician in the Central Bank’s Research Department. During that stint, he worked on the national accounts of the member states, with tourism as his special research area. Lewis then accepted an offer to return to the St. Lucia Tourist Board, as the head of the Research and Information Systems Department before being promoted to assistant director responsible for Research and Administration. He was then appointed as the Director of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, followed by his appointment as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs for two years, then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation.
“As an economist, researcher and statistician with a business focus,” Lewis says, “I am fully cognizant that the objective of St. Lucia’s engagement in the industry is to ensure that it spearheads the country’s development.”
Travel Agent recently spoke with Senator Allen Chastanet, minister for tourism and civil aviation for St. Lucia, and learned that the St. Lucia Tourist Board will become a tourism authority. The new authority would be more private sector-oriented and would be led by a Chief Executive Officer. Lewis is expected to serve in a different role when the authority begins operations around April. “His experience and knowledge of the destination is too valuable for us to give up,” Chastanet told us, “so he will continue to serve in a key role.”