Saint Lucia Tourist Board (SLTB) Director, Louis Lewis, has accused United Workers Party (UWP) Anse La Raye/Canaries Candidate – Dominic Fedee, of making statements with malicious intent.
Lewis was reacting to comments Fedee made yesterday about the performance of the local tourism industry.
“I think Mr. Fedee made some statements that questioned the integrity of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board,” the SLTB Director told a news conference this morning.
He was making reference to Fedee’s accusation that the SLTB was “cherry picking” information about this country’s tourism performance that was disseminated to the public.
Referring to the UWP candidate’s assertion that the Tourist Board deliberately did not disseminate data information on the performance of the cruise industry, Lewis said there was nothing further from the truth.
He disclosed that in 2015 the cruise arrivals here numbered a little over 677,000 passengers, while the year before saw a growth of an additional 25,000 persons.
Lewis asserted that this reflected one of Saint Lucia’s highest performances, adding that the only higher number was in 2009 about six years ago where arrivals totaled some 699,000.
“For the past four years we have been on the increase and I can prove it by the numbers,” the SLTB Director told the news conference.
He said in 2012 the number was 571,000 in 2013, 594,000, 2014, 641,000 in 2015, 677,000 .
“What is very disturbing is that all of that data if publicly available and easily verifiable,” Lewis asserted.
He said there was a variability with respect to cruise and made reference to the period when numbers were higher at 699,000 in 2009, pointing out that the year before it was 619,000 and the year before, 610,000.
Lewis revealed that following the 2009 high point the numbers went down to 670,00 and then 630,00.
He said there were a number of market activities that affect the cruise industry.
The SLTB Director said:
“The cruise lines make decisions on their itinerary for eighteen months ahead of schedule and that is published. If you go down to places like Roseau and the top of the Morne where the vendors sell their products, these people have the cruise agenda and they can tell you in advance what boat is coming when.”
He declared that the 2016-2017 period would see a better performance than 2015-16 because there is information about the vessels that are coming and their load capacity and numbers.
With regard to Saint Lucia’s tourism performance, Lewis stated that in 2015 this country grew by two percent overall, with record numbers being posted in the first four months of the year.
“For the first two months of this year we actually did publish the data for up to January, but because the cruise information was not available at the time of publication and we try our best to keep to a schedule, we sent out the data without the cruise information,” Lewis said.
He asserted that for Fedee to suggest that the SLTB was hiding the data reflects the agenda that he is pursuing.
He acknowledged that tourism numbers were down for January and February, but said the SLTB did not intend to hide it.
Lewis also responded to statements by Fedee to the effect that Saint Lucia is underperforming when compared to the rest of the Caribbean.
“The mathematical gymnastics to come to that conclusion is astounding. When we look at how the region performed overall, it was an average of seven percent with Saint Lucia recording two, but that average is being pushed because four destinations in particular had double digit growth – Cuba, Aruba, the Bahamas and Haiti.”
Lewis explained that those destinations were fortunate to have significant increases in their accommodation stock.
He said Saint Lucia was battling against the loss of about ten percent of its room capacity in an environment of currency exchange depreciations in its major markets, and operating in a highly competitive environment.
He also disclosed that there was a twelve percent increase in expenditure.