Remarks for World Tourism Day By Honourable Marsha Henderson Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Urban Development September 27, 2022

Today is World Tourism Day, a global observance that has been celebrated each year since 1980, by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). This specific date was chosen as on this day in 1970, the Statues of the UNWTO were adopted, a major milestone in global tourism. We celebrate this day to foster awareness about tourism’s social, cultural, political, and economic value and the contribution the sector can make towards sustainable development of our societies. 

This year, the observance of this day is even more meaningful as we celebrate the resilience of the sector and the perseverance of you the people. During the past two years we endured restrictions and lock downs put in place by governments around the world to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While we endured the economic hardship of the virus, this period also provided us with opportunities and a new found appreciation for the industry.   Tourism is a major driver of economic growth while creating jobs and opportunities, with market revenue in travel and tourism projected to reach $716 billion U.S. dollars this year (2022). In fact, tourism employs one in every ten people on Earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more. 

Further, tourism plays a distinctive role in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage, which we see as a differentiating factor for our sister islands of St. Kitts & Nevis. In addition, we are aiming to capitalise on trends within the industry, specifically through a newfound focus on ecotourism and sustainability across our tourism sector. A 2022 survey by The Vacationer found that more than 87% of U.S. adults say sustainable travel is important to them.    

This past August, the Federation lifted its travel requirements and now welcomes all travellers regardless of vaccination status and will no longer require negative COVID-19 tests prior to arrival. All hotels on the islands are now open as well. Experiential tours and offerings are now operating at full capacity. Airlift from the US, Canada and the UK will resume for the 2022-2023 season. These travel updates will not only encourage travellers to consider St. Kitts & Nevis for their next trip, but ensure it is top of mind.     

This year’s theme for World Tourism Day, “Rethinking Tourism,” focuses on re-imagining the sector’s growth, both in terms of size and relevance, emphasising the rebound of travel across the globe over the past two and a half years, and our aggressive plans to continue driving positive impact in the year ahead. As I reflect on this theme, St. Kitts & Nevis is in a position to rethink our tourism product and refresh and repackage our existing offerings as we look toward the future. Innovation is key as we acknowledge what travellers are looking for and how our destination can remain competitive. To ensure that we emerge as one of the top Caribbean destinations, we must work collectively to seize this opportunity and continue to position ourselves as a premier travel destination for visitors across the globe. 

In line with refreshing and updating the destination’s messaging and offerings to attract tourists, the St. Kitts Tourism Authority launched a campaign rebrand earlier this month titled “Venture Deeper.” This new campaign truly reflects the ethos of St. Kitts, one that is authentic, magnetic and soulful. We’ve shifted the branding, messaging and visuals to evoke deeper ties to the island and celebrate discovery and curiosity as life-long pursuits in travel. The Tourism Authority held an exclusive event in New York City last week to launch this new campaign to both media and stakeholders. Attendees were able to fully immerse themselves in a full sensory experience showcasing the “Venture Deeper” assets through sights, sounds and textures.  This campaign has resonated with many so far, and we are excited to see the continued positive reactions from travellers. 

As we continue to revisit and innovate our current tourism offerings, we are also keeping a close eye on travel shifts across the globe and how St. Kitts & Nevis can insert themselves within these current trends. One in particular which I mentioned earlier is that we are seeing eco-tourism, agritourism and sustainability as key points of interest from travellers. The Federation has already been working to create sustainable programs and councils including the Heart of St. Kitts Sustainability Charter, the St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council (SDC), Sustainable Nevis and the St. Kitts Eco-Park. 

St. Kitts & Nevis are in a unique position to promote this type of tourism as the islands themselves house protected biodiversity and ecosystems, including the Central Reserve Rainforest in St. Kitts. This protected rainforest covers approximately 25% of the island and continues to grow and expand. In terms of travel accommodations, both islands offer “green” and eco-friendly options including Oualie Beach Resort in Nevis who has received Green Globe Certification, as well as Belle Mont Farm and Sunset Reef on St. Kitts. Belle Mont Farm continues to be a leader in the sustainability space, sourcing as much as possible from the land, forest and sea that surrounds the hotel. The new Sunset Reef has already received international recognition for its eco-friendly practices and boasting truly advanced geo-thermal technological management systems for energy. It also provides an eco-friendly sewage treatment plant, cleaning products, and a cutting-edge filtration system that provides guests with clean drinking water while eliminating plastic bottles. 

In addition, the destination saw an influx of cruise passengers and stayover visitors throughout the summer months, especially with the return of the annual St. Kitts Music Festival in June and the St. Kitts & Nevis Restaurant Week in July. As the Federation continues to work towards the recovery of the tourism sector including the dropping of all entry requirements last month and the launch of a new brand campaign, we foresee the numbers of travellers visiting the destination to increase as we head into the winter months. 

The 2022-2023 season promises to be fruitful for the destination as positive sentiment towards travel returns. World Tourism Day is designed to pay tribute to this industry, encourage people to travel and to honour those who do such a remarkable job working in the tourism sector.

Throughout my last two months in this new position, I have certainly seen the relentless hard work and eagerness of the members of this important industry here in the Federation. I am honoured to lead this industry in this new chapter as we rethink our tourism offerings and continue to innovate to become a premier Caribbean destination. World Tourism Day is an opportunity to celebrate our achievements and the exciting opportunities that the future holds. The future of tourism in St. Kitts & Nevis is extremely bright. Thank you!

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