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Minister of Tourism Carlos James speaking at a press conference in Kingstown on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.
Minister of Tourism Carlos James speaking at a press conference in Kingstown on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.
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Tourism in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is “recovering quite well” following the “extremely challenging” period for the COVID-19 Pandemic and the 2021 eruption of La Soufriere volcano.

“We are recovering quite well. In the first few months of this year, between January and May, the numbers are showing that we are roughly about 94.6% of our 2019 pre-pandemic numbers,” Minister of Tourism Carlos James told a press conference this week.

He said his ministry considers 2019 to be a benchmark year because of the record number of visitor arrivals.

“And we are very close to peaking in terms of getting to our pre-pandemic numbers, where stayover visitor arrivals are concerned,” James said, adding that total stay over arrivals for January to May was up 46% year on year.

He said that from January to May, year on year, visitor arrivals increased from the major source makers, with the United States showing a 36.5% hike.

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From Canada, the increase was 117%, partly because of the return of Air Canada flights.

“And, of course, from Europe, we are up just over 19% in comparison to this same period, January to May of last year,” James said.

“And what is interesting is that the numbers are showing the visitors from the United States of America, they have already exceeded our 2019 number by 9.4% which is an indication that we are seeing close to a full recovery from to our pre-pandemic numbers as it relates to our major source markets,” the minister said.

“So, I think this really puts into context the uptick we are seeing in tourism, the recovery. It is going to be a long period but a period where we are showing the resilience of our Vincentian people and we are working very hard to ensure that we continue to have positive numbers moving up.”

As regard cruise tourism, James said 2022 was a record year, adding that the 23 reporting destinations in the region showed growth in that sector.

“Of the seven destinations which recorded numbers between January and May, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was the only destination to record an increase in visits in the first five months of 2023, which is the latter part of the 2022-2023 season,” James said.

He said SVG showed “a peak of 14.4% beyond our 2029 numbers.

“So, it in fact showed that while 2019 was really the benchmark year where cruise is concerned, in the first quarter of the year, we eclipsed those numbers we had from 2019 and went up by 14.4%.”

He said that the yachting sector continued to do quite well with an uptick of 74% in comparison to last season into the first quarter of 2023.

“And I am quite certain that at the end of the season we’ll continue to see those numbers holding.”

He said that for the upcoming cruise season, tentative bookings to Port Kingstown are projected to increase by 9.5%.

“And these are larger ships coming. And that, again, is a sign as to the growth within the cruise sector,” James said.

He said the numbers may hold but may also decrease due to cancellations.

“… but so far, the tentative numbers are showing that we are projected to see a further increase in port calls to Port Kingstown, dealing with ships, capacity ranging from 15 to 3,000-plus passengers.

“I am happy that we are going to see a lot more persons disembarking in  Kingstown city and traversing across the length and breadth of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the upcoming cruise seasons. So that is something which we are to look forward to and some positive indications.”

James said that while the numbers are positive, “in my mind, they are still marginal and they are marginal largely because we clearly must increase our airlift capacity, we clearly must increase our room stock on island to deal with having at least a 50% spike in person coming to our islands in comparison to the numbers which we would normally have”.

The minister said he thinks the country has the potential and that he believes that 2024 will be a record year for visitor arrivals.