By Rafiq Vayani
SAINT LUCIA: The finest travel brands from across the Caribbean and the Americas have been unveiled at a glittering Gala Ceremony in Saint Lucia. The industry elite travelled from across the region to the paradise island for the World Travel Awards (WTA) Caribbean & The America’s Gala Ceremony 2023 to find out who amongst them had been crowned best of the best.
The red carpet evening, hosted at Sandals Grand St. Lucian, marked the opening leg of the WTA’s landmark 30th anniversary Grand Tour 2023 – a global search for the finest travel and tourism organisations.
Winners on the night included Jamaica, which saw off a tough field to emerge as ‘Caribbean’s Leading Destination’, as well as ‘Caribbean’s Leading Cruise Destination’ and ‘Caribbean’s Leading Tourist Board’. Turks & Caicos was voted ‘Caribbean’s Leading Beach Destination’. The Bahamas took the title of ‘Caribbean’s Leading Luxury Island Destination’.
Canada was named ‘North America’s Leading Destination’, whilst Miami Beach claimed the coveted title of ‘North America’s Leading City Destination’ and Seattle claimed ‘North America’s Leading Meeting & Conference Destination’.
The Mexican resort of Tulum, with its great beaches, lush jungles and Mayan ruins, was named ‘Mexico & Central America’s Leading Beach Destination’. Costa Rica picked up the top prize for ‘Mexico & Central America’s Leading Destination’.
Peru was voted ‘South America’s Leading Destination’, whilst its cutting-edge gastronomy was recognised with ‘South America’s Leading Culinary Destination’. The romantic charms of San Carlos de Bariloche were acknowledged as the Argentine resort picked up ‘South America’s Leading Honeymoon Destination’
Graham Cooke, Founder, World Travel Awards, says: “It has been a privilege to start our 30th anniversary celebrations on the beautiful island of Saint Lucia, which has hosted an incredible ceremony featuring the leading lights of travel from across the Caribbean and Americas. Our winners are stellar examples of tourism excellence, and I congratulate each and every one for helping to raise the collective benchmark”.
The breadth and depth of Saint Lucia’s tourism offerings was reinforced with three key awards: the majestic island was named ‘Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination’, ‘Caribbean’s Leading Adventure Destination’ and ‘Caribbean’s Leading Nature Destination’.
Honourable Dr. Ernest Hilaire, Minister for Tourism, Investment, Creative Industries, Culture & Information, remarked: “We take immense pride in hosting the 30th annual World Travel Awards Caribbean and the Americas Gala Ceremony, an event that truly highlighted Saint Lucia’s remarkable hospitality and rich cultural heritage. Being honored with three significant accolades that will undoubtedly enhance our marketing endeavours is a source of great honour. This recognition serves to further strengthen our standing as a premier destination and serves as a motivating force to continue providing unparalleled world-class experiences to global travellers, spanning adventure, romance, and the wonders of nature.”
In the hospitality sector, winners included Amanyara, Turks & Caicos (‘Caribbean’s Leading Beach Resort’); Jamaica’s Halfmoon (‘Caribbean’s Leading Hotel’); Round Hill Hotel & Villas (‘Caribbean’s Leading Villa Resort’); Beaches Turks & Caicos (‘Caribbean’s Leading All-Inclusive Family Resort’). The relentless drive for excellence helped Sandals Resorts International to lift the title of ‘Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand’. Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, St. Lucia was hailed ‘Caribbean’s Leading Luxury Resort’ and Jade Mountain Resort, St. Lucia took ‘Caribbean’s Leading Luxury Honeymoon Resort’.
From the Americas, notable winners included Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancún (‘Mexico & Central America’s Leading Beach Resort’); Gaia Hotel & Reserve, Costa Rica (‘Mexico & Central America’s Leading Green Hotel’); Wyndham Guayaquil Puerto Santa Ana, Ecuador (‘South America’s Leading City Hotel’); Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverley Hills (‘California’s Leading Hotel’); The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara (‘California’s Leading Resort’); One&Only Palmilla (‘Mexico’s Leading Luxury Resort’); The St. Regis New York (‘North America’s Leading Wedding Hotel’); Mandarin Oriental, Santiago (‘Chile’s Leading Business Hotel’).
In the aviation sector, Bahamasair was named ‘Caribbean’s Leading Airline’, whilst Sangster International Airport, Jamaica took ‘Caribbean’s Leading Airport’. Privé Jets won the title of ‘North America’s Leading Private Jet Charter’. Air Canada was named ‘North America’s Leading Airline’.
Other winners include GO! Jamaica Travel (‘Caribbean’s Leading Tour Operator’); Enchanting Travels (‘North America’s Leading Tour Operator’); Costamar Travel (‘South America’s Leading Travel Agency’); Llama Path, Peru (‘South America’s Responsible Tourism Award’); Liberty Travel (‘United States’ Leading Travel Agency); and Skylux Travel (‘North America’s Leading Travel Agency’); and Ekinox Tours (‘Mexico & Central America’s Leading Adventure Tour Operator’).
Saint Lucia 2023 Highlights
In addition to WTA, Saint Lucia has a number of key events and activities in 2023:
1. Three Peaks Challenge
New for 2023, the Saint Lucia Three Peaks Challenge enables visitors to tackle three iconic mountains during their stay: Gros Piton, Petit Piton and Mount Gimie.
2. River Rafting on the Roseau River
Climb aboard a bamboo raft and float along the stunning Roseau River, taking in nature’s boundless wonders in tropical paradise. Spot the exotic birds of this idyllic rainforest and inhale the crisp open air, sample some tropical favourites like sugar cane or coconut water or even a homemade local treat, Carl’s Creole Bread.
3. Kabawe Krawl
This new trail of bars (Kabawe is Creole for rum shack) gives you an opportunity to meet the locals, swap stories and enjoy some Saint Lucian hospitality. Book a guided tour or if you’re out and about look for the Kabawe Krawl sign at a participating venue.
4. Romance Summit
‘Say Yes to Saint Lucia’ is a Global Romance Summit later this year, enabling agents to meet key partners, including villas, hotels and wedding planners. There will also be keynote speakers, a bridalwear fashion show and a digital media strategy workshop.
5. Atlantic Rally Cruise
The Atlantic Rally Cruise (ARC) takes place annually and sees a fleet of more than 100 boats set sail from Las Palmas in Gran Canarias to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Saint Lucia.