DESPITE three straight months of growth in the tourism sector and a 14 percent increase in visitor arrivals this year compared to last year, St. Lucia is fighting to maintain its high numbers in tourism following the devastation caused to several Caribbean countries by hurricanes.
Officials here are trying to overturn the general notion in the marketplace that it is not open for business on account of the devastation wrought by the hurricanes.
“Since the hurricanes, there has been a general perception that the entire Caribbean is not open for business, so as a result of that we have had to take additional steps to safeguard that business and address the declining pace in the forward bookings,” said Agnes Francis, CEO of St. Lucia Tourism Authority.
St. Lucia, she said, undertook several initiatives immediately after the hurricanes to inform its markets that not only was it not hit by hurricanes but that the country was still in business.
The Authority took to social media, sent out press releases, got involved in media engagements and worked with the Caribbean Hotel Association and the Caribbean Tourism Association to send its message out that it is fully open for business and not under strain by hurricanes.
But, as Francis points out, there is still a bit of nervousness when it comes to overseas reservations and bookings and, therefore, the Authority has not let up on its marketing strategy.
“We have a fall campaign going on which entails primarily digital marketing,” Francis said.
The Authority has embarked on a campaign under the banner, “There is no time like now to book St. Lucia”, extending this promotion till the end of November. This campaign will make way for a winter campaign to support its “always on” marketing strategy.
“We will invest more resources into digital marketing to deepen the penetration and, in addition, we will expand the promotion to include outdoor billboards in the USA, Canada and the UK,” Francis said, adding that there will be print material for all trade and consumer activities which will include information on St. Lucia’s geographic location and the hurricanes.
Core activities with the country’s major tour operators will be given larger budgets incorporating the new campaign message of “There is no time like now to book St. Lucia”.
“We are undertaking a media blitz in the USA, Canada and the UK during the first week of November to inform the media of St. Lucia being unaffected by the hurricanes and that we are open for business. We are also launching the 2018 Summer Soliel Festival and the new diaspora programme,” Francis said.
“We are being preemptive. We do not want that at the end of the year and going into winter 2018 for our numbers to be affected,” Francis said.
The Authority will be meeting with the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association to further thrash out its campaign to alert the rest of the world that St. Lucia is open for business.