One on One With St. Lucia’s Director of Tourism

NEW YORK CITY, New York – As part of our coverage of last week’s Caribbean Week, organzied by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Travel Agent sat down with St. Lucia’s Director of Tourism, Louis Lewis, and discussed everything from St. Lucia’s recent implementation of a $35 airport charge to the island’s strong momentum, spearheaded by a host of new developments.

Lewis says reaction to the extra $35 the island now requires, as of May 1, known as the Airport Development Charge, has not been negative, suggesting that many clients and tourism indiustry representatives understand the need for the tax.

“We haven’t had any really negative feedback,” Lewis told us on Thursday. “I think people know that this charge is strictly for airport improvements and won’t be around forever.”

He told us the extra charge will only be used for such improvements and will most likely exist for a “few years at most.”

The fee, designed to help fund the $140 million redevelopment and expansion project at Hewanorra Airport, affects air passengers arriving at or departing from St. Lucia, including those traveling on interisland regional airlines within the Caribbean as well as international lines from the U.S., UK and elsewhere.

“You never want to charge more for a flight, but I think everyone understands that this is something we need to do for a specific project and not just so we can make more money on tourists,” he says. “In the end, I don’t believe it will hurt tourism to St. Lucia and will actually improve tourism to St. Lucia in the future.”

As for the present, St. Lucia continues to be one of the hottest islands in the Caribbean with 2011 arrivals for April showing a 12.4-percent increase over April 2010. The island also reported a three-percent increase for May, compared to the same period last year, Lewis told us.

Among the key hotel developments on-island is the opening of the new Hotel Chocolat. This boutique hotel is set in The Rabot Estate, a working cocoa estate. The property features 14 luxury Cocoa Cottages, a Pool Clubhouse, Massage Pavilion and beach access among other amenities. The British-owned operator plans to break ground on a new chocolate factory to be located next door to Hotel Chocolat.

The BodyHoliday will be closing from July through September for a $20 million renovation. The renovation will encompass the total refit of public areas including Cariblue Restaurant, Piano Bar, the wellness center treatment rooms, TAO restaurant, a new beach-front deck, a new Clubhouse Pool, aerobics, scuba training and volleyball and more. The Standard Garden View rooms are being renovated while the Grand Luxury Ocean Front room and Junior Suites will receive enhancements. Additionally The BodyHoliday will be opening “The Penthouse of LeSPORT,” a room that will encompass its own Hammans Spa.

The Jalousie Plantation is undergoing a $100 million enhancement and will be re-branded and re-launched as The Tides, Sugar Beach in 2012. So far, the physical transformation includes the construction of new luxury villas and a brand-new destination-spa, and the gut renovation of its Luxury Sugar Mill rooms.

On April 1, Smugglers Cove Resort & Spa opened a new Samsarati Spa, named after the Sanskrit word meaning “flow of energy.” O Spa London runs the spa, which has been designed to provide a journey of rejuvenation and relaxation, using ingredients sourced from organic, sustainably harvested crops.

Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa recently added two new restaurants and upgraded its spa. Calabash is the resort’s new Caribbean specialty restaurant and Capri offers an array of Italian and seafood menu items. The newly renovated waterfront Kai Mer Spa has been refurbished with three new beachfront spa cabanas and a relaxation patio.