St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Tourism officials have initiated aggressive North American and European marketing plans designed to bring more visitors to the Federation, despite having to shave their operations budget.
Against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, its new variants causing global shutdowns once again, the Minister of Tourism Hon. Lindsay Grant announced strategic plans to keep the sector, which employs 6000 people, alive in 2022.
“We have steadily increased flights to our destination, and so as of November 2, 2021, travellers can fly daily from Miami to St. Kitts on American Airlines. Beginning December 18, American Airlines will fly twice daily from Miami to St. Kitts on Saturday, and on Sunday, they will also provide weekly flights from Charlotte and New York. Delta will fly weekly on Saturdays from Atlanta, and United’s weekly [flight direct] from Newark begins December 18. So we have traffic,” said Minister Grant.
For 2022 the Ministry of Tourism, Transport, and Ports was allocated EC$32,730,107, a $1,367,824 reduction from the 2021 allocation.
Minister Grant highlighted one aspect that he says needs to be addressed in 2022. Because of the unfavourable conditions of the tarmac close to the departure lounge, passengers now have to walk some distance to immigration or from the departure lounge to embark on the vessel.
“That is concerning, and I have spoken to the Chairman; we need to find some money. So I’m speaking to my Cabinet colleagues we need to find money because we need to fix [the tarmac] in front of the departure lounge. It cost a little change, several millions of dollars,” said Minister Grant before he recalled the negative impression passengers might have when leaving from or coming to the destination.
“But let me tell you, I walked out there to that plane the Saturday, in the heat of that 3 o’clock sun. I nearly walked a mile and nearly faint, and I’m kind of fit. So can you imagine a 70 or 80-year-old walking out there? That is not the kind of experience St. Kitts and Nevis would want to leave on the minds of the passengers [if] that’s the last thing they remember when they leave St. Kitts, we don’t want that. So Cabinet colleagues, when I bring the submissions for the little change, I need your support to be able to fix that runway so that we can have better travel, please.”
Aircraft are now forced to park in the westernmost ramp, the Alpha taxiway, on the Airport and may require coaster buses to shuttle passengers to and from the aircraft on some flight days.
With air traffic expected to increase in 2022 from the US, the Minister said that the Ministry would also focus on securing other source markets for air traffic.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into our US source markets and Canada, and we’ve kept the brand St. Kitts front and centre of our main source markets. We have redoubled our efforts in the Canadian market; we’ve employed a new PR firm in Canada, in the US, so we are doing things to make sure that our brand awareness campaigns work. We started on October 3; British Airways resumed, as you know, twice-weekly services to St. Kitts, Thursday and Sunday… We are ensuring that British Airways sticks to its plan in coming to St. Kitts and Nevis.”
The Minister admitted that Tourism has been having challenges with air traffic and is working on fixing that by continuing with the marketing campaigns in 2022.
On the cruise side of the tourism product, things are looking up for the first quarter of 2022, with an expected 200 calls between January and March of next year.
“In January, 77 calls… February 62 calls, March 62 calls; so between January and March of 2022, we are going to bring 201 calls into Port Zante,” said the Minister of Tourism.
Grant said that it had been a challenging year for tourism in St. Kitts and Nevis and the world but expressed that with the participation of stakeholders in the industry, the Ministry of Tourism will continue to meet the challenges through strategic planning, close collaboration and a willingness to adapt and evolve in 2022.
“We have worked together to maintain the St. Kitts and Nevis brand as one of the most recognised and sought after in the Caribbean region, which has shown through the increase in flights arriving on island as well as cruises in port, and we are confident in this continued growth in 2022.”