Fellow Citizens and Residents, the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the St Kitts Tourism Authority and our Tourism Stakeholders, is proud to be celebrating yet another Tourism Awareness Month. November 1st – 30th, under the theme: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: “Let’s Work Together for a Greener Future”
This theme highlights the need to develop a truly sustainable tourism industry — one that balances tourism’s obvious economic benefits with conservation and protection of our natural and historical physical environment. Throughout this month a variety of events and activities will highlight the fact that TOURISM is indeed EVERYBODY’s business, AND we ALL have roll to play to better understand, to better support, and to better protect this industry as one of the key drivers of our economy.
Indeed, if we are able to reduce what we waste, reuse where we can, and make an effort to recycle, then our future will be greener with prosperity.
The Tourism Sector is widely acknowledged as the major engine of economic growth and social development in the Federation, employing approximately 25% of the nation’s workforce and contributing 26% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. In other words, if our tourism industry was to fail then St. Kitts will be in some serious trouble, and EVERYONE would feel the impact. It is therefore crucial and worth repeating, that TOURISM IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS. It is vital that we think daily how our day to day activities affect our beautiful twin island Federation and for me number one pet peeve, keep our country clean. Our spectacular and unique landscape defines why year after year, visitors come to our shores by air and by sea.
We need to clean up after ourselves. When we visit our pristine beaches or go on a hike… please take back what you would have brought with you. Take pride in your country and do not litter or throw your garbage in the bushes or any other areas not designated for dumping. It affects us very badly when we do not maintain cleanliness.
I implore you to take ownership of our tourism product. Be aware that we are all FACES OF TOURISM. Our top local artiste, Dejour, produced a wonderful commercial for the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, which correctly acclaimed that TOURISM IS ME… TOURISM IS YOU… TOURISM IS ALL OF US.
I am therefore seeking your support to keep our tourism product authentic and sustainable. In November 2017, the Ministry of Tourism received the top award from the Caribbean Tourism Organization the CTO for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism at the Climate Smart Sustainable Tourism Forum held here in St. Kitts in December. By making it a priority to keep forging strong partnerships, inspiring destination stewardship, investing in education and training, involving the local community and developing strong sustainable programs, we are ensuring that St. Kitts remains a beautiful and vibrant place to live and visit both now and for future generations.
We have collaborated with the White Gate Development to improve the Black Rocks experience and extend the benefits of tourism to more rural areas, having constructed five Kittitian Village style vendor stalls in January with another five soon to be completed, refurbished and we have built a barbeque pit with an attached verandah. Two viewing platforms will be built in the next phase of this project.
Also, on the heels of the November opening of the Park Hyatt St. Kitts, the brand’s first property in the entire Caribbean, we have also announced the development of two additional premier-brand hotels – a 125-room Ritz-Carlton for the Southeast Peninsula and a 70-villa Six Senses resort for the La Vallee area – both scheduled to open in 2021. During the construction phases, both projects are expected to generate a significant number of jobs and employment.
The Ministry of Tourism and the St. Kitts Tourism Authority have committed to providing a consistently outstanding visitor experience through the sustainable development of our human, natural and cultural resources, in order to maximize opportunity, prosperity and quality of life for present and future generations.
We are continuing to conduct customer service training for all of our nationals who work on the front lines of the industry, including both traditional and non–traditional service providers such as Aloe Rub Vendors, Destination Management Companies, Servers, Bartenders, Primate Petting, Craft Vendors and Hair Braiders. This is our fourth year of annual training, with sessions held in June and July attracting a total of 120 participants. Topics covered key themes such as Destination Awareness, Serving the Discerning Guest, Caring for your Primate, Understanding Tourism, Intermediate Customer Service, Time Management and Conflict Identification & Management.
In January 2018, we trained 39 new individuals to become Certified Taxi Operators and in July we conducted Certified Taxi Operators Refresher Training with 194 participants with topics covered including Destination Knowledge, Fire Services and Customer Service.
The Ministry of Tourism has continued our Tourism Education program in schools to teach the principles of the tourism business to our youth, who are our greatest resources and the future of our tourism industry. Having begun with three pilot schools, the program has now expanded to include over 360 students in six schools – four primary schools, one secondary school and one technical and vocational school. Our tourism officers work alongside teachers combining class work and field trips to various sites and attractions on island. In addition, we have added etiquette training to the program with the sponsorship of stakeholders including Spratnet, Tyrell Williams Primary School, Jamrock and the Ocean Terrence Inn. Our Hospitality School of Excellence is in development and we hosted an awards ceremony for those students who have excelled in the program modeled after our very own Tourism Awards.
Please bear this in mind that visitors are coming to our island expecting an authentic Kittitian experience. Well educated, travelling internationally on a regular basis, and quite often sporting a relatively high level of discretionary income, these guests are looking for unique, authentic experiences that involve real interaction with both people and environments.
The marketing tactics employed by the St. Kitts Tourism Authority have been successful in yielding positive and impactful results. Further to growth of the sector over the past year, the tourism product of our twin-island Federation has continued to be recognized for excellence.
So far for 2018 alone, St. Kitts has been named among the 22 “hot spots” for Where to Go in 2018 by Bloomberg (the only Caribbean destination to appear on the list), one of the Top 21 Places to Travel in 2018 by Robb Report, one of the Destinations to Watch in the Caribbean for 2018 by Travel Agent, one of The 18 Best Islands in the Caribbean to Visit in 2018, one of the Top 20 Islands to Live on in the Caribbean and one of the Best Honeymoon Destinations in the Caribbean by Caribbean Journal, and, along with sister island Nevis, among The Most Beautiful Winter Escapes in the World and The Best Places to Visit in December (the only Caribbean destination to appear on the list) by Conde Nast Traveler. Part of the impetus behind these recent recognitions is due to no small measure to the Park Hyatt St. Kitts, which helped earn St. Kitts a special mention in The Caribbean as one of the 52 Places to Go in 2018 by The New York Times.
This year we are producing significant growth in our airlift arrivals. We recorded a 14.3% increase systemwide and a whopping 20.3% increase from North America (our largest source market) for the first half of 2018 as compared to the same period last year. For the month of March alone, arrivals increased 29.6% system-wide and 45.5% from North America over March 2017. Delta added non-stop service to St. Kitts from JFK on Saturdays and from Atlanta on Tuesdays from mid-December through the end of March, complementing the carrier’s existing non-stop service from Atlanta on Saturdays. These flights significantly expand Delta’s capacity into the destination, providing more ways for visitors to get here. In addition, American Airlines has added a second daily non-stop flight to St. Kitts from Miami on Wednesdays, increasing our twice daily service to 5 times per week. Furthermore, for the first time in the island’s history, Air Canada will serve St. Kitts for a full six months for the 2018-2019 peak season. The non-stop Saturday flights from Toronto will operate from November 3, 2018 all the way through April 27, 2019. And, most recently, in another historic first, United Airlines will fly a second weekly non-stop flight from its New York hub at Newark Liberty International Airport to St. Kitts, complementing the carrier’s existing Saturday service. These new mid-week flights will operate on Wednesdays in peak season from January 9 through March 6, 2019.
Our strategic airlift marketing to grow air service into the Federation from key target gateways has been recognized for excellence by vote of the airline network planning community serving the Americas region, receiving the ‘Highly Commended’ award in the Destination category of the Routes Americas 2018 Marketing Awards in February. As the smallest country in the western hemisphere, it is significant that we were shortlisted from among destinations with much larger marketing budgets including Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., Charleston Area CVB, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and San Diego Tourism Authority.
Our cruise sector is growing, as we have carefully cultivated and develop relationships with key cruise line executives to keep their vessels calling to our shores week after week. As of July 16, we have exceeded one million cruise passenger arrivals for the first time in the history of our federation during the 2017-2018 cruise season. Having reached this one-millionth cruise passenger milestone, St. Kitts is now a marquee port, a major win for our Federation. We are the only country to reach one million cruise passengers in a season, October 1 to September 30, annually. The occasion was celebrated at Port Zante and throughout the island with the help of stakeholders including the St. Kitts Agro Processing Unit, Carambola Beach Club, Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, Caribelle Batik and Delisle Walwyn.
Clearly our tourism product is growing, and so we need to conserve and to protect our natural environment, to grow even further. It is known throughout the world that Kittitians are naturally friendly and always eager to help. This is extremely important, because how we treat our guests impacts the success of our Tourism Industry. A simple smile, or a greeting, can go a long way in making our visitors feel welcome in our country.
We must all be proud of our tourism industry. St. Kitts is indeed the ideal vacation get-away. Open your eyes just look around you, from village to village, town to town we are surrounded by lush greenery, vegetation and brilliant mountain views. Our beaches are spectacular. We have more than 240 inventoried historical sites such as Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, Spooner’s Ginnery just to name a few. These are ours to protect and develop in a sustainable way so that generations to come can also reap the benefit.
This is OUR tourism industry in action! We must be proud of OUR island, and of OUR heritage and of our culture. Every single month should be Tourism Awareness Month. Yes, our tourism product should be celebrated every single day. Now is the time to draw inspiration and encouragement from the mirrored of opportunities that lie ahead, and the significant strides we have made so far, to grow our tourism sector and provide good jobs for Kittitians.
I trust that the activities this month will stimulate more ideas and initiatives to sustain the growth of our tourism sector. Let me, at this time, wish everyone an enjoyable and productive Tourism Awareness Month.