NO BETTER PLACE TO RELAX: St. Vincent and the Grenadines ‘still here’
Last week local media and partners gathered at the Radisson Blu on Lake Ontario in downtown Toronto to enjoy cool drinks and Caribbean flavoured delicacies while Glen Beache, CEO, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority (SVGTA) assured them that SVG “has not gone anywhere. We’re still here for the customers,” and, “You can still get to us anytime you want to. Air Canada will make sure of that.”
Beache noted that a lot has gone on over the past two and a half, to three years, as different countries had varied experiences and protocols. St Vincent and the Grenadines was the only Caribbean country not to close our borders, though he admitted, “At one point, with everybody around us being closed, it felt as if we were closed.”
However, after all the isolation, people have missed the interaction with each other, Not only did they miss welcoming people to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but even the interaction between their own citizens became difficult given the protocols in place.
“I think that’s one thing that it taught us, that no matter what technology does, just having that physical interaction, speaking to your family, friends, travelling, having that experience, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures – how important it is to us. I think a lot of people, as soon as the borders started to open up, as soon as the planes started to fly again, they were on.”
No tests or forms for fully vaccinated travellers
“I’m happy to say that for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in terms of the protocols, once you are fully vaccinated, there are no forms to fill out, no testing to be done. If you are not vaccinated, you do have to come with a negative PCR test, and you do have to spend five days in quarantine. But Canada, which I love so much, which did a tremendous job of vaccination, I think you guys are 89%. So, I don’t think many Canadians will have to worry about that aspect. So that’s one of the great things about it.”
The most diverse destination in the Caribbean
Beache gave us a brief synopsis of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“We’re 32 islands and keys. Something I like to call the most diverse destination in the Caribbean. Matter of fact, the only two destinations that come close to us, notice I said ‘close’ to us, they’re not like us, are Bahamas and Jamaica, but outside of that, nobody else comes close to us. The diversity is beyond belief. We have a little bit of everything for everyone.”
St. Vincent’s the main island is a volcanic island, (the La Soufrière volcano, erupted last April, though fortunately there was no loss of life). There are black sand beaches and while many people love white sand beaches and are unfamiliar with black sand beaches, Beache says, “just to let you know, on a sunny day, the waters of a black sand beach are clearer than that of a white sand beach. And it’s one of the things that people don’t realize and don’t know.”
Head down to the Grenadines, to Young Island, Palm Island, and Petit St. Vincent. Then there is Bequia, which is the largest of the Grenadine Islands and a favourite of many people with its very laid back atmosphere and lovely properties.
Beache notes, “Mustique, which many of you probably heard of, which is lifestyles of the rich and famous, where the royal family goes to vacation, and your own Shania Twain.”
“And, Brian Adams.” added someone in the audience.
In Canouan, there is 5-star upscale Mandarin Oriental Resort, and Sandy Lane Marina, “which is probably the most beautiful marina in Caribbean. Brand new, where a lot of people get off the private jets across the road and they get onto their yards. But it’s something to behold. It is absolutely stunning.”
Beche says, “Bequia is usually people’s favorite. Union Island is my favorite. Don’t ask me what is particular about it. It’s smaller than Bequia. But when I land in Union, I have a feeling of just complete relaxation. But I also believe that one of the reasons Union is my favorites because of its proximity to Petit St. Vincent and Palm Island. Petit St. Vincent is a favorite of mine also and Palm island”
The other island is Mayreau which has a beach called Salt Whistle Bay. It’s not a large beach, but according to Beache, “it’s the most beautiful beach you’ve ever seen. And if you’re judging beaches just by the quality of the sand and the water, it’s going to be hard to be Salt Whistle Bay. It’s that good.”
Then there is Tobago Keys where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed, it is surrounded by Horseshoe Reef, so it’s very unique.
“If you speak to many people who have visited between the Tobago Keys and Mayreau Salt Whistle Bay, it’s unique in what it has to offer. Those islands are uninhabited. And so, it’s where lot of the yachts go to and they thoroughly enjoy it. We also have a little island and it’s not included in the 32 islands and keys. It’s called Mopion.”
“Mopion is a bit bigger than this room,” he jokes as he and Shelly John, Director of Sales – St.Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism, pretend to size up the room in comparison to Mopion and decide the island is larger, but only depending on the tide.
“It’s absolutely lovely, people love it. Obviously, you have to get a boat to get onto it, but it’s well worth the trip.” Says Beache.
There are four main niche markets in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Sailing and yachting, is the number one. Diving which is unique because it’s the only destination that gives you both types of diving. Explains the CEO.
“Because St. Vincent’s a volcanic island, you have your cliff diving, small critters, that sort of stuff. Go to the Grenadines, you have more of your diving for ships, swimming with the turtles, that sort of thing. So, we have the diversity there.
Third niche market is of weddings honeymoons. And if you want to get divorced, we can make that happen too.” He says to laughter.
St Vincent and the Grenadines also offers hiking and other adventure travel.
Where to stay
As for accommodation, families with children tend to go to resorts, Airbnb has become as popular in SVC as it has globally, and a lot more people are using them. Additionally, the price range is so vast, there is something for everybody. Currently a Beaches Resort is being constructed which will be the first of the Sandals branded properties in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and is being called the flagship of Beaches properties – the first one in the Eastern Caribbean. The first phase of that should be completed by December of next year. And it will include a water park – so that’s very family oriented.
And that’s not all, designs are about to be completed by next month for the first Marriott resort in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. That will be 250 rooms. There is also a Royal Mills Resort – which is part resort and part residences. A Holiday Inn hotel is also under construction adding an additional hundred rooms. Canadian company, Pace, is also building condominiums, however news has just broken that Pace was to be acquired by Star8 Corp. So, stay tuned for news on that.
One of the issues with St. Vincent and the Grenadines has always been access to the destination – getting there. Before the international airport was completed, travellers had to go through Barbados, Antigua, or Trinidad.
Now however, the completion of the international airport has made access much easier.
Air Canada is scheduled to return in November with one flight per week. That will increase in December to twice weekly. “And I’m hoping with your help, we do so well that Air Canada even puts on more flights.” Grins Beache.
“And I should also say that when we completed the international airport, Air Canada was the first international airline to fly into St. Vincent and the Grenadines directly.” He says, “So we do appreciate what they have done for us.
“These are just some of the things that are on the horizon for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We have just started a new program called By Recommend, which is a training program for travel agents, tour operators,” (It was launched last week).
“Discover SVG program does have its incentives.” Says Beache, “I encourage all of you to go ahead and look at it. It’s something brand new. We think we’ve done a pretty good job, but there might be things that we have not seen. So if you have any advice, please feel free to reach out and let us know if something can be done better.”
“I think right now, hopefully we’re coming to the end of the pandemic. Can’t say so until WHO says that it’s the end. It just seems that these past two or three years, there’s always something, whether it’s a pandemic, for us a volcano, the war in Ukraine monkeypox. It just seems to be one thing after the other.
Beache says one of the things he has learned over the past couple of years and through the pandemic, is that you just have to try and look for the positives (rather than) to the negatives.
“And I think one of the things that puts people’s mind at ease is travelling. I think it’s something that really makes one relax, and there’s no better place to find that relaxation than St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
First published at Travel Industry Today