TORONTO — For travellers looking to catch a slice of paradise in the French Caribbean, both Martinique and Guadeloupe offer a wealth of attractions and activities suitable for all ages.
The overseas regions of France are gaining in popularity among Canadian sun-seekers, thanks in large part to increased airlift and enhanced marketing efforts. And moving into 2020, both destinations are joining forces to raise their profiles in the Canadian market, particularly in Ontario.
Martinique, located in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea, welcomed over one million tourists in 2018, up from 2017. In 2019, more than 20,000 Canadians – 20% of whom came from Toronto – arrived on its shores during the high season, an increase of 45% compared to 2018.
In 2019 Guadeloupe welcomed more than two million passengers, up 2% over 2018, with Canadians representing 4% of the market.
According to both destinations, there has been a renewed focus on Canada in recent years.
“The Canadian market is one of the top priorities for the Martinique Tourism Authority, as we are expecting more arrivals this year coming from this market, and looking forward to our prospects, especially in Ontario,” said Dimitri Derigent, Communication & PR Coordinator for Canada, Martinique Tourism Authority.
Patricia Azor, Director of Guadeloupe Islands Tourism Committee – Agency of Canada, added: “The Canadian market represents a real opportunity for us in the North American market. The presence of our islands in the Canadian market, and our increase over the years in market share is the result of a close, rich and complementary collaboration with Air Canada.”
Air Canada flies to both destinations, giving Canadians easy access year-round. To Fort-de-France in Martinique, direct flights fly twice a week, year-round, and 3x/week during high season and the summer months. Connections are available throughout major cities, including Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec City and Calgary.
Air Canada serves Guadeloupe with six flights per week in high season.
For 2020, both destinations plan to work closely with travel agents to increase visibility in the market and promote continued growth. For example, the Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board, now a member of ACTA, , is hitting the open road for a series of road shows and training sessions. Like last year, it will have a presence at the Air Canada Vacations and Transat South Product launches, it has plans to visit travel agencies in person to help agents sell the destination, and it will also be hosting in-person training season for small groups (20 maximum) and webinar classes. Agents should also take note of an upcoming incentive program and three fam trips scheduled for 2020.
“Today, agents are more popular than ever and play a key role in the continued growth of the travel and tourism industry,” said Deborah, market manager for travel agents. “They are the ones who are in contact with customers every day, and know what the customer needs and the latest trends. That’s why the best ambassador for Guadeloupe Islands is the travel agent. We absolutely need them to promote our beautiful archipelago.”
The Martinique Tourism Authority, meanwhile, is launching a training specialist online course with Travelweek’s Learning Centre, scheduled for Feb. 10.
“Travel agents are the cornerstone of our touristic development policies, especially in Canada where they play a pivotal role in the visibility of our destination to clients,” said Derigent. “We aim to work more and more with agents, and to help them sell our beautiful island of Martinique.”
Here are some key selling points for each destination:
- The island provides the ideal conditions for sailing, windsurfing and even canyoning
- It is a major diving destination, home to over 22 dive sites and a wealth of untapped wreck sites with optimal diving conditions in blue waters (http://us.martinique.org/scuba-diving-vacations)
- One of the most well-known dive sites is the Saint-Pierre wreck, once known as The Paris of the Caribbean and later The Pompeii of the Caribbean following the eruption of Mt. Pelée in 1902
- Martinique has been ranked by the Caribbean Tourism Quality Index as the safest Caribbean island, with top-notch medical facilities and a quality road network
- Local cuisine reflects a fusion of cultures – French, African and West Indian
- Martinique boasts some of the best rums in the world, including ones that have been awarded the prestigious Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) label
- Notable annual events include The Carnival (Feb. 23-26), and Le Tour de Yoles Rondes de Martinique boat race (July-August)
- For more information about Martinique go to https://ca.france.fr/en/martinique/article/experience-the-french-caribbean-island-of-martinique-an-explosion-of-joie
- Guadeloupe consists of five inhabited islands: Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and Les Saintes, as well as many uninhabited islands and outcroppings
- Top attractions include Les Bains Amours, a heart-shaped pond in a national park, Grande-Anse beach, considered one of the world’s most stunning beaches, Valombreuse Garden, home to kids activities, water slides and horseback riding, and Guadeloupe Aquarium, one of the most visited museums in the archipelago
- Guadeloupe is home to more than 110 miles of hiking trails, one of the most scenic being La Soufriere, a gently active volcano that reaches 4,800 feet
- Soft adventure activities run the gamut in Guadeloupe, ranging from canyoneering and deep-sea fishing, to volcano trekking and ultra-light flying
- The destination is well served by 6 flights per week but 4 are operated by Air Canada
- For more information go to http://www.lesilesdeguadeloupe.com/tourisme/fr-fr and www.guadeloupe-info.com
- One of the most highly anticipated events on Guadeloupe’s calendar is Carnival, during which the entire archipelago erupts in colourful festivities for two straight months
- Created by 17th-century settlers, Carnival today consists of various parading groups, the most notable being ‘Gwoup a pò’, which makes their costumes and instruments from organic or recycled materials
- Other groups, like the ‘snare drums’ category, use modern instruments like trumpets, saxophones, snare drums and triangle
- Since 2017, travellers can arrive on site a few days prior to the start of Carnival to participate in parade preparations, including costume making, rehearsal and choreography
- For more information go to https://www.laboutiqueducarnaval.com/ and https://ca.france.fr/en/guadeloupe/moodboard/discover-guadeloupe-carnival-ca