Think about it, there’s something seriously saintly about the Caribbean—you’ve got St. Barts, St. Croix, St. John, Saint Lucia, St. Martin and St. Thomas. But for a chart-topping celestial experience, go with the destination whose name sounds like the title of a canonized rock band—St. Vincent & the Grenadines, a top hits collection of 32 island paradises, all promising an upbeat heavenly vacation experience.
There is one sour note, though, because, like its heavenly namesake would attest, getting to sainthood is not easy and for today anyway, getting to St. Vincent & the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean isn’t much easier, particularly without the beneﬁt of direct ﬂights into this island paradise.
According to Celia Ross Latham, the sales director at the St. Vincent & the Grenadines’ New York tourism ofﬁce, it’s that very problem that’s limited tourism to the island. “This is one of the reasons,” she says, “we’re called an ofﬂine destination because, at the moment, we don’t have an international airport. It makes us a little more difﬁcult to get to and a bit more costly.”
Still, all that should change with the addition of a new international airport that’s currently under construction on St. Vincent and if it’s completed on schedule, they’ll be welcoming direct ﬂights from North America and Europe by 2012.
While Ross Latham does admit that limited marketing funds have prevented St. Vincent & the Grenadines from getting out into the marketplace as much as some of their competing Caribbean destinations, things are changing now that the airport has become a reality. “I’ve been doing some seminars with the agents sensitizing them to the fact that the airport is under construction,” she explains, “because we simply can’t wait until the airport is ready to let the agents know we’re going to be open to more international travel.”
Glen Beache, CEO of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, says the 32-island nation is reaching out to the marketplace with a brand-new marketing strategy. “SVG is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of the Caribbean. It is time for the secret to be revealed with a new brand identity for this great destination.” To do that, he adds, the country has, “…several major projects, which will greatly improve our ability to attract and host many more visitors to our islands.”
Other projects that are already in the works or completed include the development of the luxury Buccament Bay Resort by Harlequin Hotels & Resorts, which completed phase one this past April and is just starting to market itself here in North America. The U.K.-based developer has included everything from a sumptuous spa—with ESPA treatments—to professional-level soccer fields and tennis facilities where well-known soccer and tennis pros will offer training programs for guests, as well as the Harlequin Performing Arts Academy where guests can try their hand at performing.
Surprisingly and despite the fact that St. Vincent is known to be a high-end resort destination, Buccament Bay Resort lays claim to be the first luxury five-star resort on the island. And five-star it is with bedrooms fitted out with a 40-inch LCD TV offering 65 digital TV channels and 12 music channels, cool cotton bed linens and spacious and elegantly appointed bathrooms with power shower, super soft towels and sumptuous bathrobes.
But it’s the villas that are the real showstoppers here. Each of the three kinds of villas—the 1-bedroom, deluxe villas and Plantation villas—include iPod docking station, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, electronic safe, direct dial telephone with voicemail, fridge with bottles of water, espresso machine and tea maker, turndown service, deck with plunge pool and free high-speed wireless Internet access.
In other development projects as part of the new branding, there was a $100 million upgrade of Raffles by Sandy Lane, renaming it the Canouan Resort and a multimillion dollar upgrade of Petit St. Vincent by its new owners. In addition, there’s going to be 15 new tourist sites opened thanks to a European-funded project and most importantly, an implementation of standards for hotels, taxis, tour operators and rental vehicles.
young island resort Meanwhile, our host property, the 35-acre Young Island Resort, is a Caribbean jewel of a property with cozy cottages perched hillside, all half-hidden by the sprawling tropical garden lush with fruit trees, flowers and ferns that blanket the island like a colorful Caribbean comforter, ensuring the utmost privacy for guests. In keeping with Caribbean mystique, legend has it that the resort property—which sits about 200 yards off the main island of St. Vincent—was once the home of a Carib-Indian chief who traded his island for a black stallion. If true, it’s got to be one of the worst horse trades since the Manhattan bead deal.