St Lucia looks to the skies
St Lucia – It quite often rains in the morning here but not as heavily, or for as long, as it has today. As I arrived, dark clouds shrouded the Beausejour Stadium, with officials darting between the light marquee covers that have so far just offered shelter from the sun.
As the scheduled start time approaches, the rain has stopped – although there are still some threatening clouds - and we are all waiting to see how long England and Kenya will have to wait to start their must-win game.
This is the first time in a fortnight that it has been better weather for ducks than for tourists and the generally good weather must be a relief to the island’s tourist board, which is hoping for a bonanza on the back of the exposure St Lucia has gained from cricket.
The World Cup boom that was widely forecast has so far failed to materialise. There are no cruise ships in the harbour to cater for the extra fans. In fact, hotel rooms are still easily available.
No game so far has been close to filling out this ground, which has expanded its capacity to 21,000, and the local organising committee can only hope the semi-final is a better draw, even though it will be difficult for travellers to plan ahead for that game.
Tourism minister Allen Chastanet was quoted this week in the Star newspaper, predicting there would be fewer visitors this season than normal, with regular visitors frightened off by the threatened influx of cricket fans.
President of the St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, Silvanius Fontenard said: “We are just hoping that the exposure that the country gains from hosting the games will serve us in good stead.
“I guess that is an optimistic position that we have to take at this point and hope that it will bring some benefits in the long term because in the short term clearly there have been more losses than benefits.”
The St Lucia Tourist Board has been throwing its weight into advertising the island on the back of the tournament, organising a media beach party on Friday night.
Even on the biggest of nights out, I have never before seen a man limbo dancing under a flaming pole with a female companion around his neck.
Tourist board director Maria Fowell admitted to the Star that visitor numbers may have been “over predicted” but insisted there would be long-term rewards.
“The St Lucia Tourist Board was able to go out over the last two years and reach different target audiences that they perhaps may not have been able to reach initially,” she said.
For most of this last fortnight, the island has proved the perfect host. Perhaps the tourist board could have a word with the rain gods.