CJ Interviews

Interview with Lorne Theophilus, St Lucia’s Minister of Tourism

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - June 26, 2012

By Alexander Britell

The St Lucia Labour Party returned to power in November 2011, led by Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony. Succeeding former Tourism Minister Sen. Allen Chastanet was Lorne Theophilus, currently St Lucia’s Member of Parliament for the Choiseul constituency. To learn more about the current state of St Lucia’s tourism market, Caribbean Journal talked to Minister Theophilus about St Lucia’s focus on romance, the potential of health tourism and tapping into new markets.

How would you describe St Lucia’s tourism today, compared to the last few years since the downturn?

Well, in fact, it’s a growing entity in St Lucia. What we’ve found is that, over the years, it has kept on growing. We’ve been looking at the enhancement of our product, so we can keep St Lucia at the level that it is at, and move it even further. You could know for a fact that St Lucia been known, among other things, as a destination for romance, a destination for honeymoons, and we are also trying to establish ourselves very clearly within the world market as a destination for health and wellness as well.

Your party entered office in December. What has been your biggest priority thus far?

It is indeed the development of our product. Because product is what sells, what drives this engine that we call tourism. So we want to establish a clear product, a product that is of a very high standard, and includes standards for the industry as well, so that all the sector’s partners can be regulated in a material way, so we can add to visitor satisfaction and the visitor experience.

What are St Lucia’s most significant assets for tourism?

We have a culture that’s diverse — a culture which includes not just the people, but that includes the cuisine, and a culture that lends itself to the romance that we have been very well known for and that has made us a marquee destination.

We’ve spoken to a number of ministers of tourism about the potential of the Latin American market for the Caribbean. What do you see as the best way to tap into that market?

It is an emerging market for us. We’re looking into Latin America. Actually, we have been in very active discussions dealing with the issue of airlift, and are associated with narrowing the gap between Latin America and St Lucia. Hopefully, within the next few years, we should see a blossoming market coming out of Latin America.

Asia is another market that could show promise. What do you see on that frontier, especially with St Lucia’s relationship with Taiwan?

Well, that’s a lot more difficult. Because I think, by way of proximity, and the time factors that are associated with getting to the destination, it renders it very difficult, with the layovers that are associated with it. It’s not something that we are not looking at, that we do not hope would happen, because they are important to us, especially from an investment standpoint. If it is possible for us to work around, bringing tourism to these markets, we will look at it very seriously, because they are already involved in the development of our country from an investment standpoint.

St Lucia has been performing well in global rankings for the ease of doing business. Are conferences something that you’ve been looking at as far as tourism is concerned?

Yes. In fact, just coming out of the budget, one of the things that we did mention is that we’re looking into that, being known for ease of doing business, looking into St Lucia being a haven for conferencing and things of that nature. The government plans on pursuing that, and it will be something that will be completed long before this term in office is over.

Is there one tourism sector that you believe has the most potential for St Lucia?

What we plan on doing, more than anything else, is maintaining ourselves within those that we already are in, in terms of wedding and honeymoons. But we want to establish ourselves within health and wellness. We believe we have to focus on certain areas, establish ourselves, maintain a high reputation within those areas and let that product continue to grow and regenerate itself.

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