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Hotel wants black tourists

By Nekiesha Reid Business reporter
Wednesday, August 08, 2012

St Lucia should diversify its tourism sector by targeting "communities of colour" with an appetite for the Caribbean, says one hotelier.

Eroline Lamontagne's hotel, Fond Doux Holiday Plantation, is putting more effort into attracting black travellers thanks to the new strategy.

Black people travel extensively, Lamontagne said, and while they may be drawn by general campaigns, they have not been specifically targeted.

"Even we in the Caribbean go overseas and spend a fortune," said the managing direcor of Fond Doux (Sweet Valley in creole), "forgetting gems here".

Partly that is because the airlift available for intra-Caribbean travel is limited, said Evelyn Smith, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA).

The lack of affordable airfares in the region is made worse by the visas imposed by Caribbean countries on each other, she said,

Jamaican hotels have seen more black visitors from traditional markets over the past decade, Smith said. "There is a strong West Indian population in the US, Canada and the UK."

And while an increase in Britain's air passenger duty makes it more expensive to travel from the UK, a substantial number of people from the Diaspora visit the island during the year.

The St Lucian Diaspora is one of the main markets targeted by Lamontagne. "A lot of people overseas have lost touch," she said, adding that reconnecting with their heritage and a "natural lifestyle" will help to alleviate the "stresses and strains" that can be found outside the country.

She has launched a social media campaign using Facebook and Twitter over the last month, along with adverts in "one or two" publications to pull in visitors.

"It's been working well and we're getting a lot of positive feedback".

But tourism marketers could "do more to attract black and Caribbean travellers of means", Lamontagne said.

"It's a big market," Smith said. "Jamaica has focused on it and individual hotels have focused on it".

Although the island may not necessarily have campaigns targeting any particular group, she said, "The ads target everybody".

"The resources of the country are geared toward mass advertising," she said, "and we have gotten more and more African American travellers over the years".

"But we should continue to forge greater links" she said.

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