TORONTO — The news reports coming in from Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands are heartbreaking, and the images even more so.
KINGSTOWN — With Canadians spending US$35.5 billion annually in the Caribbean region, according to the CTO, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is ready for a bigger share of the tourism pie.
Focusing on its nine inhabited islands – the country is an archipelago of 32 islands – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is hoping to attract a wide range of travellers to experience its island hospitality.
Last December Air Canada Rouge became the first international carrier to fly out of Argyle International Airport on Saint Vincent, which opened in February 2017.
Weekly Air Canada Rouge flights have started up again for 2018-2019, launching Oct. 25 and increasing to twice weekly on Dec. 15 until the end of April 2019.
The islands have also experienced a 7.9% increase in visitors by yacht last year, while cruise ship arrivals increased by 75% according to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority (SVGTA).
Glen Beache, CEO of the SVGTA and a dual citizen of Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Canada, knows that Canadians are open to exploring. “Canadians are willing to experience new destinations … and will find many reasons to return again and again to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Kingstown, the main city on Saint Vincent, has a colourful combination of residential homes and commercial businesses surrounding the city’s harbour. This volcanic island features black sand beaches, waterfalls (including easily accessible Dark View Falls) and popular Wallilabou Bay, filming location of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, where visitors can see film sets and spot the island tortoises.
Charming Young Island Resort, accessible by its private 24-hour water taxi, has 29 cottages, some featuring plunge pools, surrounded by 13 acres of lush gardens and with a beach area adjacent to the resort’s outdoor restaurant and bar.
The next nearest isle is Bequia, an easy inclusion to a holiday itinerary thanks to daily ferry service, with a travel time of one hour. More laidback than Saint Vincent, Bequia is best explored in a pick-up truck taxi to see Port Elizabeth and its seven square kilometres.
A popular accommodation option is Bequia Beach Hotel on Friendship Bay, offering a wide range of rooms of plantation-style suites to villas in low-rise buildings adjacent to two swimming pools and extensive beachfront. Couples seeking a romantic hideaway can choose from one bedroom cottages or two bedroom villas, named for Grenadine islands.
A must-do day trip for visitors of any age is an exploration of pristine Tobago Cays Marine Park, just under 80 kilometres across the water from Saint Vincent. With its pale turquoise water, it’s a welcome place to swim, snorkel or dive the coral reefs or spot loggerhead turtles. Boat tours are available from Saint Vincent, Bequia, Union and Canouan Islands.
Two distinctive luxury options are Petit St. Vincent and Palm Island, resorts that inhabit an entire island each and are only accessible by boat. A member of Small Luxury Hotels and National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, Petit St. Vincent is focused on five-star service and sustainability. With 22 wood and stone cottages spread throughout the 47 hectares of the island, each accommodation is its own private hideaway, with all the lavish necessities at one’s fingertips (except for WiFi, only found in the reception building), two restaurants/bars, water sports, Balinese Spa. The property boasts a 60% guest return rate.
Nearby Palm Island Resort has 41 rooms, from modern suites with bali beds, to rustic rooms with palapa-shaded lounge areas and four private villas. Complimentary bikes allow guests to easily discover an unoccupied beach spot for the day. Reached by ferry from Union Island (guests staying seven days or longer can get complimentary inter-island return airfare from Saint Lucia), this all-inclusive resort has a turtle sanctuary, boat tours of the Tobago Cays, a newly-opened spa and will soon have renovated its beachfront restaurant/bar for the upcoming fall/winter season.
SVG Air offers scheduled flights between Union, Canouan, Bequia and Saint Vincent, as well as connects to Saint Lucia and Barbados. From Union Island to Canouan, a five-minute flight over the Tobago Cays brings visitors to Canouan Island and the Mandarin Oriental Canouan, the region’s first Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Originally opened in 2016 as Pink Sands Club, the boutique hotel is located adjacent to the Caribbean’s longest reef, and is also close to an 18-hole Jim Fazio-designed golf course. With 26 butler-serviced suites, seven newly-built patio villas, five restaurants and an Indonesian-style spa, Mandarin Oriental Canouan offers packages including private jet service from Barbados or Saint Lucia.
Agents who complete the St. Vincent and the Grenadines course at Travelweek’s Learning Centre can enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card.
The course, available at travelweeklearningcentre.com, delves into details about the destination itself in Module 1, including the islands and the history and essential info about St. Vincent and the Grenadines, then in Module 2 moves on to an outline of all the activities available on the islands, from the beaches, diving and snorkelling, eco-adventure and sailing to festivals and romance product. Module 3 offers an overview of the destination’s resorts.
See travelweeklearningcentre.com for more details.