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Visitor arrivals drop by 11 percent

Visitor arrivals drop by 11 percent


There was an 11 percent drop in visitor arrivals to St Vincent in 2008, compared to 2007.

If preliminary figures announced by Minister of Tourism Glen Beache at a press conference last Monday, March 23, hold true, 251,847 visitors graced these shores last year, 31,421 fewer than the 283,268 visitors in 2007.{{more}}

Minister Beache said that the numbers did not surprise him, and in some cases he actually expected the numbers to be lower.

According to these preliminary figures, same day visitors went down 15 per cent over 2007 numbers of 6,799, while stay over visitors decreased by 6.2 per cent from 89,637 in 2007.

While yachting visitors increased by 2.4 percent from 2007 numbers of 42,277, the cruise ship arrivals, smarting from the pull out of Pullman Tours summer months calls, went down by 19.3 per cent from 2007’s numbers of 144,555.

“Honestly speaking, I expected the stay over to be down a bit more than the 6.2 percent. I am not happy they are down…but it could have been worse,” the Minister said.

He said, however, that the positive yachting numbers could have been better, hadn’t it been for the closure of a major charter company from Martinique which accounted for much of this country’s business.

“Once they closed in June, we knew it was going to have a serious effect on our yachting figures,” Beache explained.

Beache also sought to put the decline in the cruise ship numbers into perspective, noting that if the numbers for the regular cruise ship season (October-April) alone are considered, then cruise ship visitor arrivals are actually up.

However, Pullman Tours, which over the last couple years made calls to St Vincent and the Grenadines all year long, cancelled their off-season calls last year.

This negatively affected the overall numbers.

Regarding visitor expenditure, which he has repeatedly said is more important to him than the arrival figures, Beache said that he would be happy if they touched the $300 million mark again, as they did in 2006 ($305 million) and 2007 ($300 million).

Beache said if 2008 and this year’s expenditure pass that $300 million mark, then the seasons could be considered successful.

He further stated that he is hopeful that with LIAT now flying into Canouan and the prospect of direct flights from Puerto Rico into Canouan from the next tourism season, the numbers can be boosted.

He also plans to hold discussions with his counterpart in Grenada to discuss possible partnerships in the yachting sector.

Meanwhile, while Grenada’s Board of Tourism also registered a 3.32 percent decrease in visitor arrivals in 2008, according to their preliminary numbers, St Lucia recorded a small increase in their overall arrivals of 1.5 percent.

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT on the whole outlook for tourism in the region going forward, acting Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley said that 2009 is expected to be “problematic.”

Riley said that the CTO is paying close attention to what is happening around the region.

He, however, stressed that while the global financial crunch affecting the CTO member states’ major tourist servers is having a negative impact, there are considerable advantages that the region can capitalize on.

Among these advantages are these islands’ close proximity to these server countries like the United States and Canada and the generally good image that the Caribbean still enjoys. (KJ)