St Lucia: Is It Safe To Visit?

caribbean beachFred Mawer, The Daily Telegraph, January 20, 2014

On January 17, Roger and Margaret Pratt, a retired couple from Warwickshire, were attacked by robbers on board their yacht while it was moored off St Lucia. Roger Pratt was killed in the incident. It took place in the far south of the Caribbean island at the port of Vieux Fort, which is close to St Lucia's international airport.

With its lovely beaches and dramatic, rainforested scenery, St Lucia is one of the most idyllic Caribbean destinations. Around 70,000 British holidaymakers visited the island last year, most on day trips from cruise ships or fly-and-stay packages – St Lucia has some of the most romantic hotels in the region. With more flights from the UK to St Lucia this winter than ever before, numbers are likely to be higher this year.

So if you are considering going to St Lucia, or are already booked on a trip there, how should you assess this tragic event?

In a statement following the attack, Lorne Theophilus, the Minister for Tourism, has said: "As a destination Saint Lucia remains relatively safe for nationals and visitors alike." However, only last April masked men armed with shotguns and pistols robbed a group of cruise-ship passengers while they were on an escorted excursion on St Lucia, at the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens near Soufrière. Moreover, in November 2012, an elderly Canadian visitor was robbed and beaten on a beach near the island's capital, Castries; he later died from his injuries.

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So despite the minister's words of reassurance, violent crime is clearly an issue on St Lucia. The travel advice for St Lucia on the Foreign Office's website bears this out. It says: "Incidents of violent crime, including murder, tend to occur within the local community but can sometimes affect tourists". It continues: "Muggings and thefts from hotels, yachts or holiday homes do occur, and are occasionally accompanied by violence, and there have been a number of serious assaults involving tourists and residents in recent years." The advice has remained unchanged since the attack on the Pratts.

All of which sounds worrying and off-putting. But I would add that I have visited St Lucia frequently over the years, and have travelled around the island extensively, on my own. I have never been threatened or felt in any danger.

I wouldn't hesitate to go to St Lucia again, and with my wife and young children. But I would take common-sense precautions. The Foreign Office advice on St Lucia covers the key points. It says you should make sure your living accommodation is secure (including your yacht if that is where you are staying), and advises against walking alone in isolated areas, including beaches and after dark, and to take particular care at popular late-night “jump-up” street parties.

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I would, in fact, advise taking these precautions wherever you are in the Caribbean, even on islands with a reputation for being relatively safe.

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