CASTRIES, Saint Lucia –Monday, March 21, 2016 – Anemic growth in tourism is not enough to sustain and grow the economy on its present track. This is the view of the United Workers’ Party, expressed by Senator Dominic Fedee and Political Leader Allen Chastenet at a news conference on Wednesday morning.
Recent figures published by the Saint Lucia Tourist Board covering a four-year period bury the recent feeble performance of the industry compared to the rest of the Caribbean and mask a trend that shows weak growth for 2015 and negative growth in the first quarter of 2016.
“The fact is that despite high demand for the Caribbean last year, at 2% Saint Lucia performed dismally when compared to the average increase for the rest of the region at 7%,” said Chastenet”. “We must ask ourselves how much better we could be doing with targeted marketing aimed at achieving maximum results. What are our neighbours doing that we are not? Tourism is the single financial pillar on which we can depend at present and any decline will send shockwaves through the rest of the economy affecting our ability to decrease unemployment, pay down debt, decrease the deficit and provide the services that Saint Lucian’s deserve to improve their lives. So this is not an argument about numbers. This is fundamental to our well-being as a nation,” asserted Chastenet. “The Minister of Tourism needs to say how he intends to reverse this trend,” he said.
Senator Fedee questioned why contrary to the normal practice, no figures for January 2016 were provided on cruise ship arrivals and called on the Minister of Tourism to provide the figures.
“According to some projections for cruise ships arrivals, in 2016 it is expected to decline by 20% and in some cases declines are expected to be as much as 56%” he told the media. Fedee is also concerned about the decline in the first quarter of 2016, “Now if January is going to start this badly, it doesn’t paint a very good picture for the rest of the year and does not bode well going forward. And it is likely that this trend will continue…This tells us that the destination of Saint Lucia is unfortunately under-performing and this is of much concern to us as an opposition,” he argued. Fedee reported that figures available so far for 2016 suggest a 2.8% decline as well as a 14% decrease in bed nights over the same period last year.
The United Workers’ Party therefore urges the Government and the Minister of Tourism in particular to report the facts to the people and to inform all of us as how he and his government intend to reverse this downward trend in arrivals, bed nights and the alarming projected decline in cruise ship arrivals for 2016. Mr. Fedee is projecting that if this trend continues that St. Lucia will report fewer visitors to St. Lucia in 2016 than we previously had in 2011 or 2012.