TORONTO — As the famous tale of the Tortoise and the Hare goes, sometimes a slower approach is best. Just ask Glen Beache, CEO of the St. Vincent and The Grenadines Tourism Authority, who says that the destination’s late entry into the tourism industry was actually a blessing.
“We’re one of the last in the Caribbean to get into the industry; it wasn’t until 1993-94 when tourism overtook agriculture as our main source of revenue,” he said at a media luncheon in Toronto yesterday. “Obviously in the world of marketing, it’s always best to be the first on the scene to get your product out there. But because we weren’t first, we were able to look at some of our neighbours and make sure we didn’t make some of the same mistakes.”
These ‘mistakes’ led many neighbouring islands to be overwrought with tourists, something that St. Vincent and The Grenadines is at no risk of. With virtually no crowds, it’s the perfect place for total relaxation.
“We’re not an area of mass tourism, which sets us apart from most of the other islands,” says Shelley John, Director of Sales – Canada for the St. Vincent and The Grenadines Tourism Office. “With the lack of an international airport prior [to the new terminal built in 2017], we’re lagging behind a little, which is a good thing since you won’t find any crowds.”
Of course, this could all change in time as more airlines offer service to Argyle International Airport (SVD), a US$250 million facility that debuted in February 2017. Air Canada Rouge was the first global airline to launch flights to SVD, a point of pride for Beache, a Canadian native.
“This airport has been a game-changer for us,” he said. “Our big issue has always been access to the destination, and now that we can have direct flights it has changed the way a lot of people in the industry now look at St. Vincent and The Grenadines.”
The airport, added Beache, has ushered in a wave of investments in the next few years, including a highly anticipated 250-room hotel by the Library Hotel Collection, the same group behind Toronto’s Hotel X. A 99-room Holiday Inn Express is also in the works, as well as a 250-room, all-inclusive resort from a major hotel brand that Beache said will be announced in the next couple months.
“The interest is there right now, we’re very excited about everything that’s coming on stream. Our partners, particularly those in Canada, have done a great job,” he said.
It’s no surprise that the island has seen increasing interest from Canada. Air Canada Rouge’s weekly year-round service from Toronto was so successful that the carrier launched a second weekly flight during the peak 2018-2019 winter season. It will once again operate a second weekly Sunday nonstop flight for this winter starting Dec. 15.
The increased lift has resulted in big visitor numbers. This year, the destination has seen a 16.9% increase from the Canadian market, which means St. Vincent is on track to surpass 10,000 visitors from Canada for the first time ever.
“We’ve seen a jump of over 40% in the past eight years or so from Canada,” said John, “and the most recent jump is definitely because of our new direct flights with Air Canada Rouge. They’re getting more people down and we’re sure that’s going to get bigger and bigger.”
John is also counting on travel agents to help get the word out that St. Vincent and The Grenadines is for everyone – and not just high-end travellers as many would believe. The island’s approximate 2,200 hotel rooms range in price and preference, and with 32 islands and cays in total, there’s something for everyone.
“We couldn’t do it without travel agents, which is why they are one of our main focuses throughout the year,” said John, who also noted that product launches and road shows will take place in October in Ontario (Kitchener, London and Toronto) as well as Vancouver. “We’re definitely focused on engaging travel agents and trying to get them down themselves and build more awareness of the destination.”
For more information go to discoversvg.com. For details on upcoming roadshows and product launches email email@example.com.