by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – Tourism officials are projecting that 2022 will be a rebuilding year to build towards pre-pandemic levels.
“What we do see is that for Q1, January – March 2022, we do see that we will have a pickup. We are hoping that each month we would at least attain 600 visitors. Now that is not what we would normally receive in January or February, that’s about 25 percent because normally we would be between 15,000 and 18,000 visitors as we did in 2018 [and] 2019,” said Ms Racquel Brown, CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority (SKTA).
“But please remember we are in a building year for this season, 2021-2022, so what the Minister and the team will be forecasting and building towards is having a much better 2022-2023 season to meet the target goals of 2015-2016, which is at the baseline where we started to make achievements.”
Although 2022 will see continued efforts to rebuild tourism to what it was before 2020, stakeholders should manage expectations as to the traffic and the market the Federation caters to and targets.
Throughout the phased restart the tourism authority has said they would diversify their market by targeting Canada, the United Kingdom and European countries.
The United States are closer and have been our primary source market since the switch to a tourism-dependent economy in 2004; because of that history and the already existing connections, it is easier and more fruitful to market the destination to the US.
However, the CEO expressed that our tourism product does not wholly meet the demand for those other markets, which poses a challenge in truly diversifying our source markets.
“We do not have all-inclusive [hotels]; we are not the destination where you get packages. We are driven by airfare, and then the person decides where they want to stay. Because we’re that quintessential Caribbean, we’re in a traditional Caribbean; it is not that we do not want to market to the UK, Canada and Europe; we started first with the United States. We have the most airlift that is accessible to us out of the United States.,” explained CEO Brown.
“We must also remember that the Tourism Authority does not have a huge budget. The Tourism Authority has a budget, and we’re responsible for carrying the risk for aircrafts and also the risk of marketing. If all of our budget was for marketing, yes, we could market much more in Europe, in the UK and in Canada. But for every plane that basically has come here [since] about 2004 when American Airlines started, we must remember that we are carrying the risk.”
In 2020, the Federation was able to secure its second flight out of Canada, but COVID came, and now the authority has to start from scratch, according to the CEO.
“We have to start from scratch again. It’s not going to happen overnight, and you may remember that the flight was supposed to start November 7, then it went to December 5. That is because Canada is a very big, all-inclusive market. We market our destination, and when we go to trade shows for Canada, you see St Kitts, but then you see the destinations as the branded hotels you rarely ever see a destination in the room, its branded hotels, and 98 percent of them are all-inclusive,” said Brown
“So we have to go after the traveller that would come to St. Kitts in a different way. So the challenges that we have is limited by funds. [The] Minister will always fight for extra funding, but the priority is to get the plane first, and when they secure the plane, then we use the rest of the money to market.”
Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Lindsay Grant said the bottom line was that his Ministry does not get enough money to market the country.
“I hope the Minister of Finance is listening, and we can get some more funds come next week,” said Minister Grant referencing the Federal 2022 Budget scheduled to begin on Tuesday, December 14.