The St. Lucia Tourism Authority (STA) says it supports the government’s position of not agreeing to an EC$20 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) subsidy over a three year period as demanded by the British carrier, Virgin Atlantic.
“We understand the possible impact that the British carrier’s withdrawal can impose on the industry, however the St. Lucia Tourism Authority is committed to effective ways of building ‘Brand Saint Lucia’ with the investment of additional revenue to increase robust marketing and advertising efforts globally,” said newly appointed chief executive officer, Beverly Nicholson-Doty.
She was among several government and private sector stakeholders, who met here over the last weekend to discuss the issue.
Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee, last week confirmed media reports here that Virgin Atlantic’s decision to scrap the route was linked to a stalemate over the payment of subsidies to the airline.
Fedee said that over the past months, the St. Lucia government had been holding talks with Virgin Atlantic which indicated to local tourism officials that in order to continue operating its existing five flights weekly in the winter months, and three in the off season summer months, it would require EC$20 million over three years.
Virgin Atlantic last Thursday announced that after June 8 it would stop its operations between St. Lucia and London’s Gatwick Airport, for the ‘foreseeable future.’
Virgin said the decision to withdraw from the island was not taken lightly and that Virgin Holidays will continue to serve hotels here after that date through connecting flights via partner airlines.
“Customer bookings for Virgin Atlantic flights departing up until June 7, 2020 will not be impacted,” according to a letter sent to tourism industry partners here.
But according to a statement that followed the weekend meeting, “the public and private sectors have arrived at a consensus that the demands from the British carrier were too onerous on the destination”.
The statement said that during the meeting, which was chaired by Fedee, some hoteliers subscribed to the view that paying a large subsidy over a three-year period for the carrier’s seven per cent global contribution to St. Lucia’s arrivals “would create a ripple effect with other carriers to follow suit”.
Fedee said that the government is proactively addressing the situation and that it has “already commenced dialogue with other carriers from the United Kingdom and will also continue to explore global options for more airlift into St. Lucia”.
The statement said that among the concerns raised at the weekend meeting included local hotels taking a collective position to Booking.com new website commission policy of 15 per cent on Service charges paid to hotel employees.
“The general positive feedback expressed at the industry meeting is encouraging and at the SLHTA we stand ready to assist our sister organizations and our general membership in the development and management of the hospitality industry,” said the chief executive officer of the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA), Noorani Azeez .