St Lucia claims it is reaping the rewards of increased marketing activity, with UK visitor numbers expected to be up at least 5% in 2007.

Director of tourism Maria Fowell claimed additional advertising coupled with a renewed effort in training agent and reservation staff is behind the rise, with numbers topping 54,000 this year.

“We are very encouraged by the figures, which are almost certainly down to our policy of keeping St Lucia front of mind. While there has been a reduction in the numbers flying in directly, many more visitors are coming in via Barbados or Antigua, which both have better access from the UK.”

Fowell was pleased that British Airways would add a second weekly direct service to the island this winter, but was keen to attract new airlines.

Looking ahead, St Lucia is predicting further interest in the UK with the opening of a raft of new properties.

In addition to the recently opened Landings and the boutique Cap Maison resort, which opens in March 2008, St Lucia will get new Ritz-Carlton and Raffles properties in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

“These two properties will both have an 18-hole golf course, opening up a whole new niche market for us,” added Fowell. “The increased meetings space should also attract business and convention visitors.”

Fowell also stressed that St Lucia is developing year-round traffic with a series of annual events. For example, the tourist board now plays a major part in organising the Food and Rum Festival in November, an initiative started last year by local hoteliers.