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The Holiday Place onboard with St Lucia's bid for a higher share of the UK tourism market

Last Tuesday, The Holiday Place was invited to attend the St Lucia PR Networking Summit held in London's Sky Light City Tower. After some welcoming rum punch and banana bread, a presentation was put forward by the St Lucia Tourist Board in partnership with Publicasity and we were introduced to the Caribbean island's new marketing campaign and plans to raise awareness among British travellers. The evening was followed by an informal gathering where canapes served and everyone had the opportunity to chat and network with other attending trade partners, mainly St Lucia hotels.

The Holiday Place onboard with St Lucia's bid for a higher share of the UK tourism market

The Holiday Place was pleased to hear all about St Lucia's new marketing plans for 2015 at the recently held St Lucia PR Networking Summit in London. Aiming to raise awareness on the destination among British holidaymakers, the event gave us a useful insight into St Lucia's future marketing plans in the UK.

Attending the event was the company's web designer and photo expert, Jana Crowne, and myself, blogger and travel writer, Susana Corona Cruz.

We spoke to some of the hotels present at the event, most of which are already our partners, and to various representatives from the St Lucia Tourist Board, namely Atlyn Forde, Director of Marketing UK & Europe for the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, who presided over the main presentation, Jackie Bookal, Senior Marketing Executive at Saint Lucia Tourist Board and Chelcie Lewis, Sales & Marketing Executive at Saint Lucia Tourist Board.

Now a brief outline of what we found out at the event - luring UK travellers back to lovely St Lucia

With a slight decline in the number of UK holidaymakers visiting St Lucia in 2015, the beautiful Caribbean island is now looking to entice more UK tourists back to the destination. With a new marketing campaign and ongoing plans to raise awareness about St Lucia’s unique holiday appeal among the British public, 2015 is the year in which St Lucia looks to position itself firmly back on the tourist map.

But there are challenges and hurdles that the destination faces when competing against other Caribbean rivals like Barbados and Antigua. For one thing both destinations are easier on most tourists’ pockets, and they both offer the Caribbean charm, everlasting sunshine and pristine turquoise beaches that travellers seek when planning holidays in this region of the world. So, the only way forward for St Lucia is differentiation, if it can’t be done through price it has to be on other elements that are just as attractive and seductive to British tourists.

A collection of one-of-a-kind elite resorts offering exclusive experiences, boasting dramatic, never-before-seen architecture that seamlessly blends with the lush surroundings and bespoke service may all add up to a recipe for success but with most of these properties having a limited number of rooms, the room rates spike to sky-high limits.

Most hotels in St Lucia have less than 100 rooms, with the majority having even less than 50, so in order to justify running costs and maintain the level of luxury, personalised attention and service offered they have to charge premium rates and that is what may drive holidaymakers to look for cheaper, less spectacular options elsewhere in the Caribbean.

But we don’t believe St Lucia should change its strategy of exclusivity and distinction and becoming yet another cheap Caribbean destination should not be one of its goals, especially when its superior levels of accommodation are in fact what set it apart from the competition. What St Lucia must learn to do and what is in fact looking to do right now with this new campaign is to diversify its offering a bit more and effectively market all these amazing values that are uniquely theirs to justify its higher price.

For a long time, St Lucia has been strongly banking on its romantic appeal, relying perhaps too heavily on this factor and marketing itself mainly as a couple’s destination and idyllic romance hideaway with its unique collection of spectacular boutique retreats, dramatically poised on the most scenic hillside settings with a view of the Pitons.

And while this is certainly one of St Lucia’s strongest markets (if not the absolute strongest at the moment) there is scope for attracting more British families with a new strategy. For long, most hotels in St Lucia have concentrated on the couples market and all of the most spectacularly dramatic and iconic hotels, the most extensively photographed and showcased properties on the island like Ladera, Jade Mountain, Anse Chastanet, Boucan by Chocolat, Ladera and The BodyHoliday - they are all exclusively adults-only. By concentration St Lucia is probably the Caribbean’s leading adult-only destination.

Of course, St Lucia also has some fantastic family-friendly hotels but they are not marketed as much and they’re not as visible as they could be. Family-friendly attractions in the island are also not played up as much as they could and there’s also plenty of opportunity for exploiting this market.

So, what does St Lucia have that the rest of the Caribbean hasn’t?

Well, for starters the dramatic landscapes combining the tranquil turquoise beach and fine white sands with the greenest of mountainous backdrops. The scenery alone is what makes most people fall in love with St Lucia straight away, with its rich verdant blanket of thick rainforest, also allowing for amazing nature trails, outstanding birdwatching opportunities and all manner of natural adventures. St Lucia’s enveloping natural world is so untouched, many tourists feel as though the tourist world has forgotten this jewel island.

On the other hand St Lucia is ideal as a twin-centre holiday destination within itself, with the south and the north of the island offering two totally different cultural and natural experiences with a completely different character and flair - this is something not many other Caribbean islands can be said to have. In fact, many reputable travel like Lonely Planet refer to St Lucia as two islands in one, with Rodney Bay in the north offering a more fashionable modern feel in stunning bayside setting and a vibrant nightlife while the sleepy coastal town of Soufriere in the south sits at the heart of old plantations, amidst hidden beach coves and the iconic twin mountains – The Pitons.

But there’s so much more to St Lucia, there’s the unique flair of its friendly people and the authenticity of the Creole culture. There’s amazing, perfectly spiced food made from the freshest local produce (many hotels have their own vegetable gardens) and there’s many live festivals (and more coming) offering fantastic live opportunities to engage with the destination, learn more about it and make the holiday experience all the more enriching.

How accessible is St Lucia to the UK tourist market?

St. Lucia is extremely accessible to UK travellers. With 13 weekly flights departing from various points in the UK, St Lucia is served by big UK carriers like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook with direct flights as well many other international airlines.

UK tourists are good for St Lucia’s economy. Not only do they represent the second largest number of tourist arrivals to the destination, trailing behind the U.S. market, but, in comparison with American holidaymakers, British stay for longer with the average Brit holidaymaker staying for 10 days, while Americans typically go for shorter 3 to 5-day breaks.

Going forward – St Lucia’s plans for success in the UK market

The St Lucia Tourist Board, together with their PR company, Publicasity, have identified a number of key moves. These include:

  • Develop a new blog on their website
  • Make communications with trade partners more memorable and more effective
  • Stronger Social Media presence: capture the energy of the people on the island
  • Launch interesting hotel promotions – for this the St Lucia Tourist Board must work closely with hotels as they themselves develop new incentives like Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet’s Mango Madness festival
  • Introduce a Children’s Publication Promotion and launch special Press Trips
  • Launch a Premium Gym chain promotion (showcasing St Lucia’s extensive wellness options and facilities)
  • Drive more awareness to the island’s unique chocolate heritage (with plantation tours, special chocolate experiences, etc)
  • Increase visibility of their annual calendar of events and festivities
  • Hold an annual PR Summit to follow up with promotions and liaise with trade partners
  • Publish and share regular updates on St Lucian news and angles

The Holiday Place and St Lucia

We at The Holiday Place fully support and back St Lucia’s new marketing campaign and initiative to drive business forward. We love St Lucia and think it is a fantastically destination for our travellers to experience. We have immediate plants to work closely with the St Lucia Tourist Board and even closer with our hotel partners in St Lucia to help create and drive new promotions as well as give them extensive coverage in our special offer deals, newsletters, news channel and blog posts.

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