|Author Joe Pike meets with Lorne Theophilus, St. Lucia’s new tourism minister.|
After attending the 30th annual Caribbean Travel Marketplace held last month, Travel Agent came back with a wealth of knowledge to help agents make more money in the Caribbean. The event, which took place in The Bahamas for the first time since 2008, drew roughly 276 supplier companies, 695 supplier delegates, 140 buyer companies and 336 buyer delegates. There were a total of 1,190 delegates, which was a slight drop from the 1,518 who attended the event in Jamaica last year.
According to Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) President Josef Forstmayr, this was the first time in the last three years that the event drew buyer companies from 15 islands.
Here is some other news around the islands to help agents plan their clients’ Caribbean vacations in the months—and years—ahead.
Expect St. Lucia’s Rodney Bay Area to Be Transformed in the Next Few Years
We sat down with Lorne Theophilus, the recently appointed tourism minister of St. Lucia, and discussed everything from the pressure of replacing the immensely popular Allen Chastanet to increasing entertainment in the Rodney Bay district.
“I’m very fortunate to replace someone like Allen, someone who could give me valuable advice,” he said. “A lot of my plans will be to continue what he started in St. Lucia, to build upon everything he put in place and to carry those plans forward.”
Among those plans is a complete revitalization of the island’s Rodney Bay area, which Travel Agent recently named one of its best nightlife destinations in all of the Caribbean. Theophilus said the plan calls for a boost in live entertainment along the Rodney Bay strip. He didn’t disclose the amount of investment into the area, but did say the plan is still a few years away.
“We want to take Rodney Bay to the next level,” he said. “We want this to be a New Orleans-type atmosphere as far as live entertainment goes. It is a very popular area of the destination, but we know we can take it to the next level. Entertainment is the main focus here.”
|Warren Cohen, chief marketing officer for Sandals Resorts, Miami; Gary Sadler, senior vice president of sales at Sandals Resorts; and Kevin Froemming, president of Unique Vacations.|
Theophilus also noted that he plans to keep aggressively pursuing new airlines and routes to the destination. He said that he is still in discussions with Continental Airlines about adding a direct flight from Newark Liberty International Airport, something that St. Lucia’s Director of Tourism Louis E. Lewis told Travel Agent in 2011.
“We remain in discussions with Continental, but we also haven’t ignored the friendships we built with airlines like American [Airlines],” he said.
Theophilus took office in December 2011 after elections and a change of party rule. A prominent attorney, he succeeds Chastanet, who is expected to stay involved with St. Lucia tourism.
Bahamas Wants Agents to Promote Outer Islands
During a press conference hosted by the Bahamas Tourist Office, we learned that Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, minister of tourism and aviation for The Bahamas, is looking to keep the destination’s momentum going by aggressively promoting travel within the island group.
According to Vanderpool-Wallace, the destination is planning to double the capacity for air passengers looking to travel to any of the 16 islands in The Bahamas.
“We realize there is an urgent need to promote the other islands in The Bahamas because many people don’t know anything other than Paradise Island,” he said, adding that promotion to the 16 islands has already begun in the UK. A new website geared at North American clients is slated to be rolled out by March, he added.
The Bahamas received more than 5 million visitors in 2011. It was the second straight year the destination achieved this major milestone.
Groundbreaking on Sandals’ Over-the-Water Suites to Begin August 15
We chatted with Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts, and learned that groundbreaking on the company’s over-the-water suites at Sandals Grande St. Lucian in St. Lucia will begin August 15.
Stewart told Travel Agent last month that he was slated to meet with representatives of St. Lucia’s new government administration since the original plans for the 26 suites were approved by the island’s former administration.
“We have everything ready, we have all the plans,” Stewart said. “Whenever a government changes hands, we need to get everything approved again. But it looks like there shouldn’t be a problem.”
Opening date for the 26 overwater suites at Sandals Grande St. Lucian is currently slated for February 2013. The Kokomo Island above-water bungalows will be three to four times the size of the average Caribbean hotel suite.
Each of these units will have a private sitting room, with doors that fold away. Glass floors will let clients see fish swimming in the water below.
In addition, the Sandals’ over-the-water suites will feature outdoor Jacuzzis and showers, as well as hammocks above the Caribbean Sea.
Trinidad & Tobago to Build on ‘Project Runaway’ Winner
At a Trinidad and Tobago lunch, we learned of the destination’s plans to boost tourism arrivals by 4.6 percent in 2012.
Sandra Perkins, CEO of Trinidad and Tobago’s Tourism Development Company, said that the islands will be heavily emphasizing on fashion since one of its locals, Anya Ayoung-Chee, recently won the Project Runway TV competition.
“The plan is to have her help promote tourism and fashion in the destination,” she said. In 2010, the destination saw roughly 380,000 arrivals, which was about the same reported for 2011. “We remained flat in 2011, but we are looking at about a 4.6 percent increase in 2012,” she said, “and that has a lot to do with our updated hotel product and the fact that we had one of our own win Project Runway.”