Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — With Mandarin Oriental just announcing its official debut on Canouan in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, news of another new resort for the island chain, from a well-known brand, is expected be made public within the next few weeks.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Minister of Tourism, Sports and Culture, Cecil McKie, in Toronto this week to meet with industry partners and media this week, said “all the pieces are coming together” and construction on the new-build resort, on the main island of St. Vincent, should begin within the next three months.
Interest in the Caribbean destination, always something of an off-the-beaten-track gem, has ramped up with the debut of the new Argyle International Airport. Open since February 2017, the airport is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ years-long plan to attract international flights and – slowly but surely – boost its status as a tourism hotspot.
Lift out of Canada for the 2018-19 winter season includes flights with Air Canada Rouge, with year-round nonstop Toronto to St. Vincent flights ramping up to twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays in high winter season. ACV’s just-released Sun Collection 2018-19 brochure offers seven hotels in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
From the U.S., carriers servicing St. Vincent and the Grenadines include American Airlines out of Miami starting Dec. 15, and Caribbean Airlines ex New York (JFK).
“We’re getting there slowly but surely,” says Glen Beache, CEO, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority. “We’ve done well for our first year of operations [with Argyle International Airport]. We need to have the room stock too.”
Beache adds: “I’ve never seen so much interest paid to St. Vincent and the Grenadines as I have now, with the new airport.”
While the destination is keen on attracting new hotel development, the first priority, as Beache notes, is “to keep the hotels full and give everybody the best experience possible.”
St. Vincent and the Grenadines isn’t exclusively an upscale destination, but with islands like Mustique and Canouan, it’s easy for travellers – and travel agents – to make that assumption. “I think in the past it was marketed [as a luxury destination] and I think that was a mistake,” says Beache. The goal now is to go in the direction of four-star resorts.
Some of the most popular resorts on the islands and cays – there are 32 in all, but only nine are inhabited – are Palm Island Resort, Petit St. Vincent and Buccament Bay Resort.
The ‘new’ Mandarin Oriental, Canouan is in fact the former Pink Sands Club, Canouan. Mandarin Oriental announced the rebranding and an extensive renovation back in October 2017, and just this week Mandarin Oriental announced that the resort’s transformation was officially complete.
More rooms are on the way at Black Sands Resort, now under construction on St. Vincent with 40 villas and a 200-room hotel.
Meanwhile agents should be on the lookout for more hotel news from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, says McKie. “We welcome discussions with anyone with interests in our islands. The government has offered to partner with investors. We have an open door policy.”
The islands also have plenty of draws for visitors, including a full list of festivals and events, kicking off at the beginning of the year with the Bequia Music Fest. In the summer Vincy Mas “is the hottest Carnival in the Caribbean, and the safest,” says McKie.
Shelley John, Director of Sales, Canada for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Office, says travel agents can hear all the news from the islands at upcoming roadshow events in St. Catharines, Oakville, Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal, taking place Sept. 24 – 28.
For more details see discoversvg.com.