Inside St Lucia: Are cricket fans safe in St Lucia?

International cricket returns to St Lucia in less than a month. On 14th June Jason Holder’s West Indies team will take to the field at Beausejour, Gros Islet, in the second of three test matches against Sri Lanka.



It will be the first test match to take place in St Lucia since 2016, when Virat Kohli’s India side beat the West Indies by 237 runs. It is a prestigious event and an honour to host, but the cost of bringing international cricket to St Lucia is undoubtedly a drain on the island’s finances.

The Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, the venue for next month’s test match, has been beset by controversy and financial struggles in recent times. Renaming the Beausejour Stadium after St Lucia’s most famous cricketing son has done nothing to address its misfortunes. The struggles of this cricket stadium are symptomatic of the wider challenges facing St Lucia, a bankrupt destination in a spiral of decline.

Local media reports suggest that the National Cricket Stadium operator, Sports St. Lucia Inc., receives Government funding of $300,000 a year to manage its facilities, and owes “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to utility providers.

Opposition MP Dr Ernest Hilaire has demanded answers from the St Lucian government as to how a taxpayer loan of “almost $1 million” was spent at the cricket ground. Despite that huge loan the venue’s groundskeepers and cleaning staff have complained of not being paid and chronic water shortages have prevented them from maintaining even the most basic levels of hygiene there.

Turning around the fortunes of the ground is far from guaranteed. The financial benefits of next month’s match to the venue and St Lucia’s wider tourist economy will be minimal at best. Test match crowds have dwindled across the Caribbean in recent years and Sri Lanka does not come with the kind of travelling support that makes England such a popular opposition.

And any Sri Lankan supporters that do travel are more likely to be found in Bridgetown, Barbados, where the world famous Kensington Oval (a venue steeped in cricketing history) will break new ground hosting the Caribbean’s first day-night test match.

The bigger opportunity for St Lucia to put on a show that might help recoup its cricket ground’s losses will be in early 2019, when the England team and its tens of thousands of travelling supporters are due to visit the Caribbean.

England are due to play three test matches, five one day internationals and a T20 fixture against the West Indies during February and March 2019.

St Lucia and the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium will be desperately hoping that the West Indies Cricket Boards allocates games to Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium and that English cricket fans will choose the island for their dream cricket watching holiday in 2019.

St Lucia under scrutiny

St Lucia’s expectation for a cricketing windfall in early 2019, however, is no doubt tempered by growing international awareness of the island’s violent crime epidemic. With St Lucia already under scrutiny for its visitor safety record, what happens next month and the rest of 2018 will be hugely significant.

Locals bear the brunt of one of the highest murder rates in the world. Gros Islet, home to the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, is one of the three worst homicide hotspots in St Lucia. Armed robberies are commonplace, local politicians admit to serial rapists being on the loose and attacks on tourists seem to happen now with ever greater regularity.

The rape of British tourist in Gros Islet in March, just minutes away from next month’s test match was not an isolated event. The brutal attack took place in broad daylight and added to a catalogue of high profile violent crimes on visitors that includes Georgina Mortimer’s rape, the gunpoint robbery of dozens of tourists on the cruise ship Celebrity Eclipse and the murders of Roger Pratt, Gloria Greenwood and Oliver Gobat. No one has yet been convicted of these offences.

In recent months we’ve heard of British tourists being robbed at gunpoint on a popular beach in Gros Islet and visitors being assaulted, robbed and hospitalised while shopping for food in Castries.

In our experience, St Lucia is a dangerous place in a spiral of decline and visitors who venture out on their own are particularly vulnerable. Cricket fans considering a trip to St Lucia, whether they be from Sri Lanka next month or from England next year, should do so with full knowledge of the facts so they can weigh up the risks and take the steps necessary to protect themselves.

The St Lucian authorities need to do better at reducing crime, do better at making people on the island (both locals and visitors) feel safe, and do better at bringing perpetrators to justice in a timely way. That is vital if they are to end the cycle of criminality that is so damaging to St Lucia.

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