Published on Tuesday, January 7, 2020

St Lucia to introduce tourist fee

Saint Lucia is to charge guests a nightly accommodation fee from April 1 to pay for destination marketing and development.

The government said it had decided to introduce the charge following consultations with industry stakeholders.

The money will be collected by hotels, guest houses, villa and apartment owners and passed on to the government via the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, which currently has an annual marketing budget of $35 million.

It will be used to promote Saint Lucia in its key destinations, including the UK, the US, Canada and the rest of the Caribbean and Europe. 

The fee will also be used to support village tourism development and destination management, as well as the development of local prodcut in Saint Lucia.

Guests paying a nightly rate of below US$120 a night will pay a fee of $3 per person per night while those paying a rate of $120 a night or above will be charged a higher fee of $6.

Airbnb guests and others who book through similar sharing platforms will be subject to a fee of 7% of the total cost of their stay. 

The government said its intention is to strengthen the SLTA's ability to increase its marketing of the destination and to support tourism development in Saint Lucia with the collection of a fee that correlates to visitor arrivals. 

Saint Lucia attracts up to 350,000 stay-over visitors every year, which it aims to increase to 541,000 by 2022.  It also wants to increase flight capacity and load factors to 85%.  

"The business of promoting a tourism destination is becoming increasingly challenging and highly competitive as countries worldwide try to capture a greater share of the growing tourist market. Given this, it is now a common practice for countries to finance the marketing of their tourism product through an accommodation fee or levy paid for by stayover visitors to the destination," said a spokesperson for the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

"More established destinations with far greater resources than Saint Lucia such as Canada, the US and Italy all make use of accommodation fees for destination marketing purposes.  In addition, many Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Barbados and Belize and those within the OECS including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, have implemented accommodation levies.  These levies are often applied on a per room, per night basis and are sometimes scaled (tiered) based on the type of property.  As configured, Saint Lucia's Tourist Accommodation Fee is among the lowest in the OECS and CARICOM, and other well-established tourist destinations globally.  Saint Lucia's fee structure is similar to the Maldives."

The Saint Lucia Tourism Authority said it is establishing a process to allow accommodation providers, international tour operators and booking websites to easily remit the fees they collect to reduce admin costs.

Tourism minister Dominic Fedee said: "It's always a challenge for small countries to allocate much needed resources towards tourism marketing. The accomodation fee allows tourism to pay for itself, as the tax will be levied to tourists to the island. It frees up much-needed funds for healthcare, education and national security."

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