Dr. Douglas explained, “In the wake of the 26.8% contraction of the stay over sector experienced in 2009, the sector recorded 3.3% growth in 2010 and is projected to grow by 5.9% this year. This significant turnaround of the country’s leading contributor to foreign exchange earnings was supported by increases in arrivals from the main source markets of the United States, United Kingdom and Europe and the re-opening of the Four Seasons Resort.”
He added, “The investments made in support of the marketing strategy and direct airlift capacity continued to play an important role in the recovery of the sector and in laying a sound foundation for consolidating the full revitalization of the sector when external market conditions stabilize. At the same time, intensifying competition in the market place makes it imperative that we sharpen our focus on consistently offering a safe and secure visitor experience, convenient airlift and a more sophisticated tourism infrastructure. It is therefore imperative that we continue to employ a carefully targeted, cost-effective marketing strategy that is closely aligned to the authentic product offerings of our twin-island nation.
Recognizing the volatility in the global market, we have taken a pro-active approach to building and supporting international airlift services to ensure that both visitors and nationals can travel more easily to and from our destination. It is important to note that the airline industry has implemented stringent measures to address the escalating cost of fuel and the pressure from shareholders to remain profitable in a time when travel has become a luxury for many households. In some instances, airlines have eliminated routes and flights to small, unprofitable destinations but I am pleased to report that St. Kitts has seen an increase in airlift in support of our target markets. As of April 5, 2011, American Eagle added two (2) new weekend rotations between San Juan and St. Kitts, further facilitating weekend getaways between St. Kitts and Puerto Rico and improving access to the west coast of the United States. Effective December 23, 2011, travel from Canada will be supported by a new service from Air Canada for the peak winter 2011/2012 travel season which ends in April 2012.”
Dr. Douglas outlined, “By the inclusion of this new flight, St. Kitts and Nevis has become a more viable winter destination choice for travelers from this key North American market and we are optimistic that this new airlift arrangement could be further developed into a year round service by 2013. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for intra-regional travel where economic slowdown, high airfares, capacity reduction and other obstacles have continued to cause a serious fall off in Caribbean travel. However, we continue to explore options to strengthen this market and, in this connection, we are currently in discussions with REDjet for the inclusion of services to the Federation in its expanding regional operations.
Mr. Speaker, to further expand arrivals from the higher end of the air passenger market, we will commence the construction of a world class private jet terminal in January 2012 and it is scheduled to be completed by October 2012. This project is synergistic with other premium facilities which are already being developed to serve a more upscale clientele. This facility will target clients from a number of ongoing developments such as Christophe Harbour which recently opened ‘The Pavilion’ at Sandy Bank Bay and continues to execute work on a mega yacht marina at the South East Peninsula which is expected to host its first vessels in January 2012. Development is also now progressing at Kittitian Hill, with construction underway on the golf course and thirty-six (36) resort cottages and ten (10) villas. It is anticipated that Phase One which is the opening of a ninety (90) room hotel, spa and golf resort will take place in December 2012. Phase Two of the Silver Reef luxury apartment complex will also be completed by June of that year. Meanwhile, we are seeing the positive impact from the completion of the final twenty-two (22) units of the eighty-eight (88) unit Marriott Vacation Club International (MVCI) which has timeshare owners that visit year-round therefore providing a balance between the seasonal lows and highs of leisure travel.
Douglas said, cruise passenger arrivals expanded by 13.7% in 2010 and it is projected that visitor arrivals will expand for the fifth consecutive year during the October 2011 to September 2012 cruise season. Based on berthing bookings, it is projected that approximately 650,000 cruise passengers will arrive in St. Kitts by September 2012.”