The Caribbean West Indies island country of St. Lucia is launching a new tourism campaign to boost its economy that has become less globally competitive in its banana exports, according to the country’s commerce minister, Philip Pierre.
Launching in Atlanta in November, the St. Lucia campaign will use the slogans, “St. Lucia: Simply Beautiful” and “You are so beautiful,” to attract visitors from the United States.
Delta Air Lines Inc.’s new daily flight from Atlanta to St. Lucia beginning Thursday, Dec. 1, is also expected to boost tourism to the island.
St. Lucia, which is an independent country and a member of the British Commonwealth, aims to push its tourism appeal in global markets to offset losses in its agriculture sector, primarily its banana exports.
“Bananas were 50 percent of St. Lucia’s exports a few years ago. Now we must compete with Central American and South American countries that are much larger producers of bananas,” said Mr. Pierre, St. Lucia’s minister of commerce, tourism investment and consumer affairs.
“We are relatively a more high-cost provider [of bananas] because our wages are higher, our country is smaller and we protect the rights of our workers,” Mr. Pierre told GlobalAtlanta following a luncheon at the Westin Buckhead hotel to announce the new tourism campaign. “As of January 2006 with the new [European Union] tariff regime, our export ability will be severely curtailed,” he said.
St. Lucia has received preferential treatment on tariffs to export bananas to the European Union, one of its largest markets, allowing it to compete with larger producers. But as of January, the EU will have a new banana duty that allows Latin AMerian countries to b emore competitive with Caribbean banana producers. St. Lucian and other Caribbean officials argue that the new tariff must be higher than their own, so as to protect their region from external market forces and help their struggling sectors survive.
St. Lucia’s sugar trade, too, may be in trouble if, in January, a European Union Commission proposal is implemented that cuts guaranteed prices for white sugar by 39 percent over a four-year period. Such a cut in sugar prices would result in an estimated loss of more than $100 million annually for Caribbean sugar producing countries.
The EU has proposed an aid package to help offset lost revenue in these countries, but, as in the case with bananas, Caribbean officials claim the funding is not sufficient to keep their industries afloat.
Mr. Pierre said that St. Lucia, however, in efforts to save its banana trade, is also attempting to tie tourism to its agriculture industry, focusing on promoting native food products to tourists. He added that tourism creates important linkages to other sectors as well, noting increased tourist demand for improved roadways, railroads and seaports is spurring job creation in infrastructure development.
Some 30 percent of St. Lucia’s gross domestic product comes from tourism, a sector that is expected to see 11 percent growth in 2005. American tourists account for 45 percent of the island’s visitors, and Atlanta is a “key city in our future growth strategy,” Mr. Pierre said.
He expressed apprehension, however, about the United States’ enforcement of rules that require American citizens to present passports to travel to the Caribbean.
In addition to its reputation as a honeymoon destination, St. Lucia boasts an annual jazz festival in May and will host the cricket world cup next year.
Contact Mr. Pierre’s office at (758) 451-9763 or visit www.stlucia.org for more information about St. Lucia.