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Tourism Minister Upbeat About the Industry's Performance for 2006

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Contact: Prime Minister's Press Secretary

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 - Tourism Minister Philip J. Pierre is positive about the outlook for tourism in St. Lucia for 2006.

The Minister predicts that, barring unforeseen circumstances, this year St. Lucia will reach the 300,000 mark for stay-over visitors and hotel occupancy will surpass last year's 68% record.

According to the Minister, he also expected this year's earnings to be close to one billion dollars, also surpassing last year's figure of $800 million-plus.

He noted that more new hotels are being built, even while existing hotels are expanding. Among the new hotels he identified that opened last year were Coco Palm at Rodney Bay and Coconut Bay in Vieux Fort.

Mr Pierre noted that new up-market rooms and villas are about to come on stream at the Plantation at Cotton Bay in Gros Islet and Discovery at Marigot Bay, both of which are about to be opened.

In addition, he noted that ground-breaking ceremonies have already taken place for The Landings and Le Paradis at Praslin on the island's East Coast and work has begun on Bay Garden Suites.

Among the existing hotels that are expanding or due for expansion, the Tourism Minister named Bay Gardens at Rodney Bay, Le Sport Villas at Cap Estate, Cara Suites at La Pansee and Jalousie Plantation in Soufriere. In addition, he said, more new villas were also under way at Cap Estate.

Mr Pierre said that with Cricket World Cup just over a year away, 24 investors have already been given permission and incentives by Cabinet to increase the number of rooms available for the thousands of visitors expected, while the Bed and Breakfast Act was recently passed to allow for persons who wish to expand their homes by between two and five rooms for Cricket World Cup 2007.

The minister also noted that there will be additional airlift capacity in 2006, thanks to new daily flights from Atlanta in the USA by Delta Airlines and the return of Air Jamaica with three weekly direct flights from New York, beginning in February. In addition, he said Virgin Atlantic will also begin flying direct to St. Lucia from Manchester in June 2006.

Mr Pierre also said the island's tourism marketing efforts will continue with the rolling out of new advertising material to be launched at the New York Market next month and other parts of North America and Europe later.

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