When tourism really started up to the Caribbean, visitors fell in love with the islands in a number of ways. It was a pure escape — laid back atmosphere, a tropical climate and scenery to match. Hospitality was genuine and not “learned.” And uncrowded beaches promised lazy, carefree days.
Since then, much has changed on many islands, with mega-resorts, all-night dance clubs, casinos and back-to-back charters offering “cheap and cheerful” getaways for thousands of sun-starved visitors.
But not in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A tiny country of 32 islands and keys (its square mileage so small that it would fit 15 times into our own Prince Edward Island), “SVG” has no massive hotels, sprawling duty-free malls or casinos. And it has managed to retain that genuine, relaxed charm that early visitors would recognize. And yup, the tallest building is just five stories.
On October 6th, some 60 travel advisors and media from across Canada attended a virtual road show for an update on SVG – or, according to its tourism tagline, “The Caribbean You’re Looking For.”
The biggest news is that mainline AC flights begin weekly service from YYZ on Monday December 6th. AC was the first international carrier to serve the country, so it is held in great regard. “They are our biggest rock stars,” said Minister of Tourism the Hon Carlos James.
The road show was an opportunity to remind us of the four main markets for these islands: sailing and yachties; scuba divers; weddings (and divorces!); and the adventure traveller looking for hiking, kite surfing and more.
Of the 32 islands only 9 are inhabited, and we got a bit of a glimpse into each one’s “personality.” Mustique, the legendary island hideaway of the rich and famous starting with Queen Elizabeth’s sister Princess Margaret and with Mick Jagger and Shania Twain in her footprints. Union, perfect for Robinson Crusoe laid-back charm. Canouan, home to the only Mandarin Oriental Resort in the Caribbean, ideal for upscale clients looking for the best in pampering. And private Young Island, 12 acres of seclusion with just 29 villas, many with plunge pools, and an adorable bobbing tiki bar raft straight out of Gilligan’s Island.
Other resorts include the family owned Hotel Alexandrina just minutes from the beach and the capital, the fabulous PSV on Petit Saint Vincent which features its own Cousteau Marine Park and the Liming on Bequia Island (“bek-wee”). As “liming” is the fine art of doing nothing, how does that sound for a wonderful place to unwind?
As happy as we all were to see the lovely vistas of brilliant turquoise water, tropical-flavoured cuisine and expansive white sand and dramatic black sand beaches, and no one attending the road show was happier than Susan Henry of Custom Vacations and Dana McGregor of North South Travel who each won a trip for two to SVG.
Bon voyage, ladies!