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St. Kitts Tourism Authority
"Keep your eye on St. Kitts"

Interview with WheelsUpNetwork May 27   


For someone who has not been before, why choose St Kitts & Nevis?

It is the authentic, quintessential Caribbean island that many remember from 25 years ago. It has everything to offer across a broad range of travelling tastes, styles and experiences.


What’s the most surprising thing about St. Kitts & Nevis?

The richness of our history as reflected in today’s destination’s product. Tourism became the economic driver of the economy upon the closure of the island’s sugar industry in 2005 – so you can see, we are new to tourism.

Our history of sugar isn’t that far in the past and the remnants of that industry are evident all over island. Much of our lands once dedicated to growing cane is now untouched and are returned to nature. Sugar mills dot the countryside and the original train tracks that carried the cars of cane to the mills have been preserved and now carry visitors on a scenic tour of the island on our colorful, one-of-a- kind-in-the-Caribbean, Sugar Train.

As the train winds its way around the island, children come out of their homes to wave and greet the visitors with all of their young enthusiasm. It is really quite something to experience.


Please describe St. Kitts & Nevis In FIVE words

Caribbean-pastime, authentic, uncrowded, safe, beach.


How much was 2019 GDP and what is the proportion attributable to tourism?

According to the WTTC, 62.4% of our total GDP was from tourism. Total, annual visitor spend was USD $ 426,400,000. The Federations overall visitor per-person, per day average spend was US $173.80, with the Canadian’s visitor’s per person, per day average spend at US $135. The Canadian Visitor’s average length of stay is 9 days, the longest of any of our source markets.


What has been the experience of COVID-19 on St Kitts and Nevis generally?

St. Kitts & Nevis had only 15 persons who had confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. I am gratified to say that they have all successfully recovered from the virus and we have no reported deaths from it. Our testing rate is among the top 1/3 in the world per capita and we use only the RT-PCR test which is the “gold standard” of tests. Our Federation was the last country in the Americas to confirm a case of the virus and we are among the first in the region to report all cases recovered with no deaths.


How has that affected tourism businesses and their capacity to offer services moving forward? Are there set timelines for reopening the islands to foreign tourists yet?

With the advice of our medical experts, our borders are currently closed and only essential businesses are operating. At the time when we do open our borders, we expect all tourism businesses to be ready to offer services up to or exceeding the services offered prior to the pandemic and respecting new parameters for sanitization and social distancing.

St. Kitts will be taking a balanced, cautious and holistic approach to reopening the country to visitors to make sure residents and tourists are as safe as possible. Not least, because the experiences that overnight visitors have is more open and integrated in to the islands’ daily life, since none of the hotels are all-inclusive. Other countries with more all-inclusive hotels may open to foreign tourists sooner, since all-inclusive hotels are easier to contain and keeping guests isolated from the general population is much easier. St. Kitts & Nevis considers the whole country to be ‘all-inclusive’.


When do you expect cruises to return?

An exact date is yet to be determined. The CDC “No Sail” order is in place until July 24, and many lines are still evaluating the dates on which they will begin operations.


What proportion of overnight visitors are repeat visitors?

According to our 2019 Airport Exit Survey, 37% of our total stayover visitors are repeat visitors. Canada is slightly higher at 40% repeat visitors. With respect to repeat visitation, I can share this anecdote with you which I feel reflects how our Canadian visitors feel about the island. Our team met a couple last year at one of our golf events in Canada and they came down at Christmas for two weeks to try out St. Kitts. They have already booked their return for this November and are looking perhaps to winter in St. Kitts moving forward. They fell in love with the destination and the people...."


What proportion of overnight visitors are Canadians?

According to our Statistics department, as of January 2019, 8.6% of our total arrivals were from Canada.


Air Canada this past winter introduced a second weekly flight from Toronto. What were the metrics that lead to this and do you expect that to resume next winter?

Load factors were consistently in the 90 to 95% range even when Air Canada deployed larger aircraft to service St. Kitts. We also knew a large number of Canadians were using the Miami connection as well so it made sense for Air Canada to look at increasing service and capacity to St. Kitts.


We’ve seen quite a number of postings relating to the restaurant scene on the island, as well as staging culinary based events for agents here in the Toronto area. Why the focus on restaurants and culinary?

St. Kitts has both an amazing and interesting culinary scene- from casual fun beach side dining to elegant top-drawer restaurants. Research indicates a growing trend in culinary adventure as a driver with more seasoned travellers. St. Kitts fills that desire extremely well with many choices across the island.

Anyone visiting the island should certainly try Creole Stewed Saltfish, the national dish, served with johnnycakes (think cornmeal pancakes) and fried plantain. Most any hotel or restaurant would offer this classic dish.

And perhaps to help you cool off, wash it down with a ‘Ting With a Sting’ – local rum (the sting) and grapefruit soda (tart and sweet at the same time).


You have a dedicated sales and marketing team here in Canada and we know that because we talk to them often about the destination. One of their key areas of activity in this market is sponsoring something like 30 golf events annually across the country. Why the focus on golf marketing?

Research again. Golfers in Canada are voracious lifestyle travellers and skew to a higher income demographic. When we talk with them at our golf events in Canada the vast majority of them have winter travel plans. We had a 300% spike in web site searches from Canada after a season of golf events around Toronto and travel agents telling us golfers are calling them and they need more information on St. Kitts. It works. We have done it for five years now.


Will travellers see a spike in costs relative to pre-pandemic pricing?

We work very closely with both Air Canada Vacations and Sunspots Holidays to offer early season incentives and attractive offers. The fall of 2020 will be no different I'm sure. We encourage agents to watch for Air Canada Vacations incentives- which usually start in mid August. There are always great offers that will be attractive to agents to offer clients.


Are there any country-wide tourism focused promotions that travel agents and/or their clients should be aware of?

We will be rolling out our promotions for our agents and their clients as we are closer to actually opening our borders. Currently we have a Pause Now/Play Later strategy in place as it applies to our communications. For the immediate term through an indefinite time, depending on how long the situation persists in St. Kitts, for the US and Canada and various source markets, we are on PAUSE NOW. Once it is safe to travel, we will move on the PLAY LATER phase of the campaign to inspire travel. Deployment is dependent on the opening of borders in St. Kitts, and the level of the COVID-19 containment around the world. But you can be certain when it is the time to return to travel, St. Kitts will have competitive promotions in the market.


And finally, looking ahead to this winter and beyond, what can agents expect from St. Kitts? What would the key message be for agents to pass on to their clients about the destination?

The Federation managed the virus exceptionally well and when we re-open the borders, we will have procedures in place to protect everyone - our visitors, citizens and residents. We want visitors to know that we are a safe and authentic beach-and-more destination. As you know, we are not a mass market destination, and as such we are uncrowded and can offer the privacy and space for social distancing, so you can comfortably relax and enjoy your holiday time with your friends and family.


Jul 21, 2021

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