Tourist arrival numbers almost back to ‘normal’
An AIR CANADA FLIGHT on the tarmac at the Argyle International Airport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. (File photo)
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September 19, 2023

Tourist arrival numbers almost back to ‘normal’

St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is almost back to its 2019 “pre-pandemic numbers” for tourist arrivals with the Canadian source market showing a more than 100 per cent improvement in comparison to the previous year.

“Between January and May the numbers are showing that we are about roughly 94.6 per cent of our 2019 pre-pandemic numbers which we consider the benchmark year. That was the year just before the pandemic where we had record numbers for tourist arrivals. We are very close to peaking to get to our pre-pandemic arrivals,” Minister James told tourism stakeholders at September 18 press conference.

Detailing the arrival numbers from SVG’s major source markets, Minister James said: “Total stayover arrivals is up by 46 per cent … the numbers are showing that the visitors from the United States of America they have already exceeded our 2019 numbers by 9.4 per cent …”

“Year on year… for January to May we have seen increased arrivals from our major source markets from the US we are up to 36.5 per cent; from Canada we are 117 per cent. Partly one of the reasons we had seen the return of our Air Canada flight and they will return at the opening of the winter season. In Europe we are up just over 19 per cent in comparison to the same period of last year.”

For cruise arrival numbers for the last season, the Minister said SVG outperformed other destinations.

“SVG was the only destination to record an increase in visits for the first five months of 2023… showing a peak of 14.4 per cent beyond our 2019 numbers.”

He revealed that, ahead of the 2023 cruise season, bookings are already ahead of last season.

“So far the calls to Kingstown we are projected to see a 9.5 per cent increase in calls to Port Kingstown and these are larger ships coming.”

The Minister also spoke of plans for a large-scale recruitment drive to be conducted by Sandals Resorts SVG as well as MSC Cruise Ships to provide work opportunities for Vincentians.

MSC is expected to take on up to 100 skilled tourism professionals while Sandals has made available 800 positions.

“I know that maybe of some concern to the tourism stakeholders, the possibility of staff leaving to go off on the cruise ships. But that simply means we have to train more people if one cruise ship is coming here to recruit up to 100 Vincentians.”

He said the Ministry is willing to work with stakeholders to ensure that a “balance remains” for persons to work in the local tourism sector.

He described Sandals and other recruitment drives as a “game changer” for SVG with close to 1,000 Vincentians expected to benefit from tourism employment opportunities.