ST. KITTS– For any tourist destination, the easiest way to deal with worries of a decrease in arrivals is to get a big-name luxury brand in your destination. For St. Kitts, the savior is Ritz Carlton. Although we are still awaiting additional details, it has been confirmed that The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company could soon be inking a deal to set up shop in St. Kitts in the form of a roughly 200-room resort. The deal is said to be finalized by the end of the year, but we’ll give you more details as soon as we get them. Stay posted as we bring you more news from Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Small Hotels Retreat
Opening ceremonies commenced last Wednesday night following a sit-down with St. Kitts Minister of State for Tourism, Sports and Culture Richard “Ricky” Skerritt. Skerritt addressed the 800-pound gorilla in the room, aka the struggling U.S. economy, right off the bat when we asked him about its influence on the conference. “We need to focus on what this conference is about, building those smaller hotel markets and we can’t get lost in this maze, but what has been an overly optimistic destination is now a cautiously optimistic destination,” Skerritt admits.
But even with the ongoing bailout saga hanging over the U.S. and, therefore, Caribbean tourism, Skerritt reported that this year’s conference drew even more interest than last year’s event in Barbados. In fact, there are reportedly 179 delegates in attendance, up nearly 50 percent from last year’s number of about 120.
St. Kitt’s new CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority Rosecita Jeffers also thought that the economy shouldn’t swallow the attention of the conference. “I think this conference is important because hotels are the background of this industry,” she says, “and we can’t lose focus of that.”
The government of St. Kitts has provided some relief for small hotels of the country. Jeffers said the government, in fact, has allocated a fund for marketing and incentives to be split among the small hotels of St. Kitts. No figure was given on the fund. Jeffers says the fund with be contingent on whether the hotels agree to certain standards with training staff among the highest on that list.
While it’s unfortunate that St. Kitts is the first Caribbean tourism destination to host an event following the trouble on Wall Street, St. Lucia is hoping it is old news by January. That’s when the destination will be hosting the annual CHTA Marketplace. Thus far, the numbers indicate that, like the Small Hotels Retreat, the conference’s attendance won’t be affected.
We sat down with Angela Alphonse, project manager for the St. Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association, who told us that about 1,500 delegates are already onboard for the event. “Right now, September, is when this whole mess is really at its highest,” Alphonse said. “We’re hoping it will be a dead issue by January. I think we can get our focus back on strengthening tourism in St. Lucia and the Caribbean and not worry about losing tourism in St. Lucia and the Caribbean.”