Interview with Lorine Charles-St Jules, Chief Executive Officer Tourism Authority, Saint Lucia

Interview with Lorine Charles-St Jules, Chief Executive Officer Tourism Authority, Saint Lucia


Business Focus: We know that St Lucia has been awarded the “Best Caribbean Island” in the 2023 Readers Choice Awards. Can you highlight specific initiatives or unique aspects that played a role in securing this prestigious recognition?

We are delighted to share the news about St Lucia with you. This was a trade award voted to us by the trade: the travel agents and the tour operators. We’re very excited that we got that award last year, among others. I believe that one of the main reasons why we’ve got it is because of the relationship we have built over the years with the trade. One of our strategies is to ensure that the trade is consistently and constantly upgraded on what St Lucia has to offer, and not just upgraded, but educated with a vision to sell because they are in business as well. What we want to ensure is that they make money because we offer a service, we offer a destination, and they offer services to their clients. Our zeal is to ensure, over and over consistently, that those trade partners are always knowledgeable about how to sell St Lucia. We offer a lot of unique nuggets to them, and we constantly communicate with them. My sales team has contributed to constantly educating the trade about St Lucia. That’s why we were able to get that accolade.

Right now, I’m in North America. The US is our number one market. We’re here on business, and just to ensure that we keep the business going, and lots of things happening. It’s a peak time of the year when we go out constantly to either reach the consumer or the trade directly. That is part of the mission.


BF: Highlighting a notable achievement, Saint Lucia’s tourism witnessed a substantial 12% increase in visitor arrivals from 2022 to 2023. What factors do you attribute to this impressive growth?

2022 was a record year for a lot of Caribbean islands. While we relish in that growth, we also want to recognize that we were not alone. One thing for Saint Lucia is that we almost put everything in place in 2022 to ensure that we welcome our visitors. We went to visit our airline partners, and we wanted to ensure that we had enough airlifts. We got that airlift sorted out in 2022. A lot of the hotels were ready and open for business. And we did a lot of marketing. Our strategy was to ensure that we got people because people were traveling. They were traveling for revenge; they were traveling for their bucket list. We tried to capture that traveler who was willing to travel to the Caribbean. We got ourselves ready for them. That’s one of the reasons why we were able to get that growth. But that was again through our strategic marketing and our alliances with our partners. We tried to ensure that we got to stay afloat during that time.


BF: We know that Delta Airlines from January to April this year are flying from Atlanta. American Airlines has committed to increasing capacity to Hewanorra International Airport this summer, with additional flights from Miami International Airport and other cities. How will this expansion impact tourism, and are there plans to leverage increased connectivity for the benefit of travelers and the local economy?

Airlift is one of the key factors to the growth of a destination – because how would people get there – and especially direct service. We credit American Airlines for increasing that service. American increases Miami and Charlotte for the summer. It gives the customer the options because we have other flights. We have JetBlue out of JFK. We have Delta out of Atlanta. We have United out of Newark and Chicago. But American offers the options of nonstop Charlotte and Miami, which are the gateways and are right now the 2 hubs. We’re privileged that we are chosen by American Airlines to increase the service because they see the growth and the demand. Equally, we try to raise the demand for ourselves in the US market, which is a very important market to us. And then American Airlines has seen the demand that is being created. They come in and invest with us. We’re very excited about that.

Also, for the local economy definitely, it just brings in more people. There’s more use of accommodations, transportation, restaurants, and services. The money stays locally when people come in. You see that growth in the economy.


BF: That’s very important.  I had the opportunity to go and attend a presentation of local products for export and see how it impacts all locals; all these tourists coming over and then wanting their products.

Correct, because you need to come in to see the products.  We spoke about the fact that they come to different restaurants, and they would see the local produce. Now that we have a push for community tourism, they have an opportunity to go into the communities, visit, and enjoy different products that they otherwise would probably not have enjoyed in the past.


BF: In August 2023, Global Ports announced an expansion of Pointe Seraphine’s berth to accommodate larger cruise ships, including Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class vessels. How does this align with the broader strategy to enhance the cruise tourism experience, and are there plans for additional improvements?

The cruise is aligned with us because we fall under the Ministry of Tourism. On a larger scale, we applaud the Minister for going out and seeking infrastructure development to enhance the cruise offerings for the customers in St. Lucia.

We have to look at the trends. A lot of customers now are going towards the larger ships. They love those larger ships. But as it stands now, because of our infrastructure, some of the Oasis Class can’t come to St. Lucia. GPH now will enhance and improve, and therefore we will be able to accommodate all of those ships, and not just the size, but also more than one at a time. There’ll be more passengers on the island occupying and consuming the services available on St. Lucia, helping small businesses develop and grow, buying arts and crafts, and going out there and enjoying the water sports activities, all the adventures, and all the experiences St Lucia has to offer. There’s no other island where you can get a chocolate massage. Imagine that you get out of the cruise ship, you just make your own chocolate, you get a chocolate massage, and you get a chocolate Martini. That’s all about chocolate because we have one of the finest cocoa beans in the world between the Pitons.

The cruise enhancement for us is not just about the customer. The customer benefits, as the travel agents who sell benefit also, and of course, on the island, we all benefit, because now people are coming, we can accommodate more cruise passengers on our island and different cruises. Sometimes, depending on the cruise that you opt for, you have a different type of customer. Now, we can even attract a different customer, more multi-generational families can come because they realize that those big ships are coming in so they use that because it goes to Saint Lucia.


BF: St Lucia is a high-end destination as well. Talking about responsible tourism, you offer ecotourism, you offer beautiful sight scenes and everything. But what programs do you have to make sure that your tourism is also sustainable?

We belong to wider organizations, including the Caribbean Tourism Organization, and the OECS. Those organizations prescribe what is recommended for sustainable tourism. We try as a blueprint to follow the guidelines from those 2 organizations, and to ensure that we keep ourselves as a sustainable tourism destination.

Inwardly, we like to say – because we know we are not there yet – as a tourism authority, we are building a marketing blueprint to show how we market our tourism destination as a sustainable island because nobody is pulled back for sustainable tourism right now. People talk about plastics, people talk about what you do at the hotels, but we want to applaud some of our hotels. We have at least 10 hotels on the island that have engaged in sustainable tourism. They have lots of practices like water harvesting, so when the rain comes in, they harvest the water so they can recycle the water, and they have gone away from the plastics. Some of them use a lot of recycled products. We applaud at least 10 of those hotels for those practices.

We also applaud some of the businesses in St. Lucia that have done sustainable practices just in general. Again, they avoid plastics, they use local products. We know that a lot is happening on the island. As a destination, what we are doing right now is bringing all of this together and providing this marketing blueprint and how we market St Lucia. The new legislation encourages hotels to practice sustainability. That is another thrust that we have. In general, we are moving towards sustainability. All the things on our island are kept sustainable. The Pitons will never change. The government in general, through the Ministry of Sustainable Development, is encouraging quite a few of the businesses in St. Lucia to become sustainable as well.

Inwardly, the staff last year continued to be trained at Georgia, Washington University, in sustainable tourism, so they get diplomas, and know how to practice sustainable tourism. Almost half of my staff right now have completed that program, and the goal is to have all the staff, whether it is in finance, marketing, or general activity, in sustainable activity, to be a force, and to be quite knowledgeable. If we’re going to say we are a sustainable island, we need to know what we’re speaking about. The best thing is to get them educated. They were doing this remotely online through the George Washington University in DC in the US. The staff are being equipped.

In general, again, through the staff education and our programming; secondly, we are soon to launch the blueprint and sustainable tourism, and thirdly, the hotel sector. We all work together, and the tourism authority is bringing all these programs together, and let the world know that we do practice sustainable tourism.


BF: Another important thing that you just mentioned is education and training. How do you help especially women to get trained and be involved in the tourism sector?

If you want to join the tourism sector, we always encourage you wherever we can. Next month we are sponsoring a day at one of the high schools celebrating the fiftieth anniversary, and we will be there in person to encourage, not just women, but to encourage people to join the industry. The workforce is probably at least 60% women in the tourism industry. But we do encourage more and more at all levels that you could join the industry because we think it’s the most fascinating industry in the world.


BF: The Authority recently introduced Lucian Links, a strategy to strengthen connections with the Saint Lucian diaspora, particularly in the United States, Canada, and the UK. How has Lucian Links increased engagement with the diaspora, and are there specific successful outcomes or initiatives?

Lucian Links is a program that is aimed to build, develop, and connect with our St Lucian diaspora all around the world. We launched it in 2022. It has been very successful, and what we do is we send regular newsletters to them. We inform them about what’s happening on the island, whether it is an activity, an event, or just hotel specials. We communicate that to them. And when they come down to visit St. Lucia during our main events, like Carnival, or Creole Day in October, and also when we have jazz, we host them with a little reception to say thank you, and just to update them on what’s happening on the island. We see a lot of success.

Last year, for instance, in October, we probably had the most diaspora visiting for Creole Heritage Month, and we want to thank them for coming out and visiting, and we always encourage them, because where they are, they have made their homes. For instance, if they’ve moved to New York, Miami, or Texas, it’s now their home. We encourage them to share St Lucia with their new friends and their new families. We always want to thank them for doing that because they have lots of choices as well to travel, but the idea is to come home, and if you have four vacations for the year, make at least one or two of them in St Lucia, to come back and visit. We have seen that success. They came back also for Independence, which we observed last month as well. We encourage them to come down and see your island, and not just through tourism. Invest In St Lucia is encouraging them as well to extend the brand of St Lucia and continue to visit.


BF: They can be your best ambassadors.

Exactly. Yes.


BF: When is the Jazz Festival? How can you invite people to come, experience, and enjoy that festival?

The Jazz Festival is from April 30th to May 12th this year. Last year we made a return of the festival to what it used to be. It was like the thirtieth anniversary of the original site of the jazz festival. The jazz festival is more than a festival, it’s a place where people just have fun coming down to St. Lucia. We call it the St Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival because we showcase music and arts in different forms. We brought it back with a full focus on jazz and arts, adding spoken word, poetry, fashion, visual arts, and performing arts. We have a mix of local and international. We bring them together because it’s an international festival, we showcase our local product, and we bring in an international product to marry that. That’s the art side of the festival.

Then we go on to the community side, which is unique to St Lucia. We have chosen 5 communities: Soufrière, Vieux Fort, Generie, Monchy in the North, and Bexo. The festival is international, but we also want to build the community to the community local music. We have local musicians who build out of that festival, and eventually, they go onto the main stage on the weekend. The weekend starts from Thursday to Sunday. That’s when you have the main event. For the international public, we know that not everybody can come for too long. We say come from Tuesday, the 7th, where we have a pure jazz night; it’s just pure jazz if you like jazz. On Thursday we have pure jazz, but it’s all about women: “Ladies in Concert”. We showcase women. On Friday we have the Caribbean night. We have our best local artists, but we also bring in some Caribbean artists there. And then, on Saturday what we call “The World Beats”. You have a mix of all types of genres but world music. Then on Sunday, which is Mother’s Day, we call it the ultimate celebration where it’s like a sing-along.

All of the artists are on But our lead on Sunday is Air Supply and BabyFace. We have some Caribbean names like Voice, Machel Montano, Beres Hammond, and Samara Joy who is a sensation and just won a Grammy this year.  We normally have those top-notch artists coming in. The tickets are available as we speak. You could get a premium experience if you want – that is for the VIP – or you could go to regular. But the idea is just to attend the festival, come and enjoy, meet St Lucians, meet people around the world, and have a good time in St. Lucia.


BF: What opportunities are there for investment in the tourism sector in St Lucia at the moment, especially coming from the US?

If a US national wants to come to St Lucia, there are business opportunities, all types of business, because in St Lucia it’s very easy to conduct business. There are a lot of opportunities now in the hotel sector. We are a luxury destination, but we encourage sustainable building right now. That is our focus for the hotel sector. In terms of the business community, there are various areas.  There’s opportunity in technology.

But because we are a developing country in the Caribbean and because of my focus, it would be on tourism, on hotel building, and services related to the accommodation sector.


BF: What would be your final message to the readers of this report to help them make the decision easier for them to come and enjoy your beautiful country?

I know you have a lot of options in the world. I’m from St Lucia. I’m a proud St Lucian. I’m proud to lead the Tourism Authority. I’m proud that I’ve been chosen by the Minister to execute his vision and to represent St Lucians, and I encourage you to come to the island. We are simple people; we are loving people. We do all our exit surveys over and over, and one of the highlights that our customers say to us is they enjoy the people.

Everybody says St Lucia is beautiful. We have the beautiful Pitons. We’re the world’s only island named after a woman: Lucia. There are so many things you can do on the island activities. Just walk around. There’s a street party every Friday night if you like parties. We have wonderful hotels. We have hotels with open concepts where you could actually be on your pool and look outside there with 3 walls. We have all different activations, all different experiences on the island. Make your choice, there’s something for everybody, and I think that is what makes St Lucia stand out. We are diverse. There’s a lot to do on the island, and of course, the people will ensure that you can choose the correct thing for yourself.