Incentive Newsline: Next Big Thing: St. Lucia

Caribbean Island Poised to Become Top Incentive Destination

Jalousie Beach


Jalousie Beach

The Eastern Caribbean island of St. Lucia, known for its densely forested Piton mountains and natural hot springs, is getting 1,000 new luxury hotel rooms in the next three years. Among the newcomers:

* The 124-room Discovery at Marigot Bay, managed by GLA Hotels, a French operator of luxury getaways, which opened in September;

* Le Paradis, a development that will include a 232-room Westin hotel with golf, a spa and meeting space for 600 attendees, to open in 2007;

* The 112-room Jalousie Plantation, formerly a Hilton, to be turned into a luxury resort by December 2007, and

* The Ritz-Carlton, St. Lucia, with 275 rooms (225 of which are suites), a spa, two golf courses and 7,000 square feet of meeting space, opening in 2009.

These new brands validate St. Lucia as an incentive destination, said Simone Champagnie, managing director of SNC Destinations, a group that connects U.S. planners with Caribbean destination management companies and hotels. “There are properties on the island that have long been upscale, but because they’re locally managed, they don’t bring as much interest from corporate planners,” Champagnie noted.

According to Ezzat Coutry, Ritz-Carlton’s senior vice president for the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida, the hotel company came in because of the island’s unique beauty, along with convenient airlift from the United States and Europe. “This is a great incentive destination,” he added. “I think it’s one that will have quite a bit of charm.”

“We will never be a destination that caters to large groups,” said Maria Fowell, the island’s new director of tourism, “but I think we can be focusing on the smaller, more specialized meetings.”