Address by The Hon. Philip J. Pierre
Minister for Commerce, Tourism, Investment &
on the Occasion of the Return of Air Jamaica
to Saint Lucia New York
Wednesday 22nd February 2006
To say I am pleased to be in New York in celebration of Air Jamaica’s return to
St Lucia is an understatement. That decision by Air Jamaica is testimony of
confidence in St Lucia tourism industry at a time when airlines continue to face
major challenges. This confidence is not misplaced as St Lucia tourism continues
to perform satisfactorily.
St Lucia recorded a 6.5% increase in tourism arrivals at December 2005 bringing
for the first time the number of stayover visitors to over 300,000 (317,939. CTO
estimates stayover arrivals to the Caribbean region increased by 3.6% and WTO
estimates international tourism arrivals increased by 5.5% in 2005. Clearly St
Lucia is holding its own and we are thankful to our partners for their support.
Air Jamaica’s return to St Lucia is timely. The airline returns at a time when
CARICOM countries are embarking on a path of further integration through a
CARICOM Single Market which mandates freedom of the factors of production and
right of establishment in each other’s economies. Air Jamaica as a Caribbean
airline is a practical example of the benefit of that integration.
We are aware that Air Jamaica has re-focused and is well placed to continue its
expansion to destinations in the Caribbean. We believe that this is a positive
step since the Caribbean brand is in need of more airlift. A region operating as
a single market must emphasize on the uniqueness of its product and the need for
airlift is a prime condition for growth.
The USA continues to be the largest source market apart from the Caribbean for
St Lucia in 2005 increases of 5.1% were recorded from the USA with double digit
increases in certain months. We are striving to continue that trend in the
future and Air Jamaica non-stop flights from New York’s JFK will help in that
We are aware that airlift is necessary but not a sufficient condition to sustain
a destination. In this regard the St Lucia government through its marketing
agency the St Lucia Tourist Board and with the help and agreement of the private
sector through the St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association has designed a new
advertising campaign in the electronic and print media. This campaign will focus
primarily on the USA market and will be very visible in the New York area.
There will also be other joint marketing initiatives with Air Jamaica and the
local private sector to complement that new campaign to ensure the
sustainability of the service and a possible increase in flights in the near
This service is a welcome addition to our airlift not only because it is the
only direct service from JFK to St Lucia but it will serve to fill a void
expressed not only by our visitors to St Lucia but by St Lucia nationals living
in the USA and wanting to return home an holiday. Air Jamaica is a Caribbean
airline and I am sure management understands the needs of the Caribbean
clientele. It would be remiss of me if I did not at this ceremony convey a
message from and on behalf of the St Lucia passé in New York that Air Jamaica
should ease up on the luggage.
These are exciting times in St Lucia’s tourism industry and for our country
generally. We are in the middle of preparations for hosting the world’s third
largest major sporting event - Cricket World Cup. The island is expanding its
playing stadium to increase existing spectator facilities.
An important part of that preparation is the need to house visitors expected to
converge on St Lucia from around the world. Government through enabling
incentive legislation has created the catalyst for growth and expansion in the
hotel plant with the goal of expanding present room stock of 4500 to 7000 by
April 2007. In 2005 - 480 new rooms had already been commissioned with the
opening of Coco Palm Resort at Rodney Bay and Coconut Bay Hotel in Vieux Fort
near the international airport.
These investment incentives include tax breaks for up to twenty years in some
cases for new construction, expansion renovations of large and small hotel
properties. To maintain St Lucia’s reputation as a destination offering
diversity in accommodation we have sought to upgrade bed and breakfast offerings
and small hotels through special incentives that will allow them once they
satisfy the required standards to offer accommodation to our visitors.
St Lucia’s hotel plant is expanding and investors are demonstrating tremendous
confidence in the future of the tourism industry. Commitments in new building
expansions, refurbishments or upgrades are now over $500 million USA and many of
these developments are either under construction or nearing completion.
These new hotel developments range from intimate small hotels to business five
star properties. A brief review of major hotel construction in St Lucia will
include the Landings, Plantation Bay, Bay Gardens and Le Sport Villas in the
North. Discovery Bay and JJ Villas on the West Coast, Anse Chastanet Infinity
Suites and Jalousie Resort in Soufriere (home of the Pitons), Le Paradis with a
Westin property on the east coast village of Micoud. Work has already commenced
on these sites. There are also many upscale villas and luxury homes being built
all over the island.
You will agree that optimism exists on the future of our hotel sector. We are
continuing our efforts to continuously improve the brand St Lucia. The road
between the international airport and Soufriere, home to the Pitons, has been
improved and resurfaced. Work on the east coast road to the international
airport has commenced and when completed will provide motorists with a smooth
ring-road network around the island. The Gros Islet Castries Highway is also
slated for attention. Improvements on the regularity of our water supply are
Diversification of our product continues. Government has granted the first
gaming license to an American Company Treasure Bay Limited for the construction
of a casino in the north of the island. These was also an announcement last week
that a Jack Niclaus signature golf course will soon be coming to Cap Estate in
the north of the island.
Air Jamaica’s return could not be at a more opportune time. I am aware that many
factors determine an aircraft’s destination but I am sure that the environment
in St Lucia is encouraging for the future of Air Jamaica.
While we celebrate this evening I want to thank the people who made this
historic return possible by keeping alive the vision of a major Caribbean
In this regard the government of Jamaica must be complemented. Former Chairman
Mr. Butch Stewart and Dr. Vin Lawrence and present chairman Mr. O.K. Melhado all
share the desire to make Air Jamaica the best possible airline – I salute the
vision and determination of these gentlemen.
(other thanks – Mike Conway, William Rodgers, George DeMarcado, Lorine St Jules
To my mind the return of Air Jamaica to St Lucia signifies a major step in the
development of our region and the tourism industry in particular. Our industry
is dependent on airlift and I am sure Air Jamaica understands that reality and
will serve St Lucia in the finest tradition of professionalism and love bird