If you get lost driving around Anguilla, your sense of direction (how to say this tactfully?) is not really good. This tiny island whose name means “eel” in Spanish, measures just 16 miles long and three miles at its widest point, so there only is one main road. While we’re at it, there are only six stop lights on the entire isle, which is all that’s needed for such a small island whose population, please note, totals just over 13,000.
The paradox, of course, is that this little British Overseas Territory floating five miles north of St. Maarten/Martin is home to some of the best and most cosmopolitan resorts and villas in the Caribbean and anywhere else in the wide, tropical belt that wraps around our planet’s belly. Paul McCartney, Miranda Kerr, Orlando Bloom, Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Ellen DeGeneres, Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington, and other major celebrities have vacationed there precisely for that reason. Anguilla, with its emphasis on quality accommodations and exceptional cuisine, among other virtues, prefers discerning travelers over mass tourism.
About those other virtues:
◆ Anguilla is a low-lying island (its highest point barely reaching an altitude of 213 ft.), so visitors have no trouble orienting themselves and getting around. Steep mountainside roads with switchbacks? Not here.
◆ Only October gets a good dose of rain (about six inches on average); the other months are quite dry, so travelers who vacation here can pretty much count on blue skies. You may interpret Anguilla’s “tranquility wrapped in blue” tagline as referring to the skies or to the sea; either interpretation makes perfect sense.
◆ Speaking of the sea, from the air Anguilla looks as if someone covered great swaths of its shores with fresh snow. This being the tropics, that’s not snow you’re looking at, but 12-plus miles of beaches—33 in all—covered by fine, white sand so deep you could sink up to your ankles in it. These beaches are the vacation settings of your dreams, not to mention being perfect for photo shoots.
◆ Living coral reefs lie within doggie paddle distance from many of those beaches, so great snorkeling is a walk in the park.
◆ Well, maybe not a walk in the park, but park, yes, because Anguilla protects seven large sections of waters as marine parks.
◆ In addition to its “mainland” beaches and reefs there are seven unpopulated islets and cays for yet more sand, snorkeling and snuggling.
◆ In part because the island’s local and tourist populations are small—remember, Anguilla does not truck with all-inclusive chain megaresorts or megaship day-trippers—people here are unusually friendly to the visitors. Anguilla’s somewhat peculiar history may have something to do with this friendly attitude, too.
The bottom line is, this is an island whose five-star resorts and quality accommodations, mouth-watering cuisine, and of course, its incredible beaches have won major awards, and if there were an award for “Most Enterprising and Good-Natured Locals,” Anguilla would win that one, too! The luckiest winners of all? The vacationers who discover Anguilla and choose to return again and again.
Who Loves Anguilla
The short answer is, anyone who’s ever laid eyes on the place. But that’s probably less than helpful for you, so here’s a look at specific niche and specialty travel markets that are perfect for this island:
◆ Well-heeled sophisticates who expect luxurious resorts or villas with a high standard of good taste in decor and great service throughout. These are people who can be counted on to choose sailing over paintball, yoga class over casinos. (Hence, all those celebrities.)
◆ Worldly travelers want world-class cuisine when they’re on vacation. That might mean classic French, upmarket tapas, or Asian-Latin fusion, and Anguilla’s luxury resorts and their restaurants raised the bar for these and other stand-alone dining options in the 1980s, and today they continue to set new standards of innovation and excellence. P.S. Quite a few of the hotels and restaurants on Anguilla have wine lists that would rival the best in New York, London and Paris.
◆ Connoisseurs of splendid beaches get hooked on Anguilla’s sugar-white, almost fluffy sand and gentle surf. Connecticut-based travel agent Ted Riegel still remembers his first sight (in 1988) of “Meads Bay Beach in its full glory—a stunning mile and a half long of white powder.” A few years ago the World Travel Awards named Shoal Bay the best beach in the Caribbean, and others have done likewise. And Anguilla has 31 more of these picture-postcard beaches.
◆ Vacationers who want assurances of great weather realize that there are few guarantees in life, but they also know that the odds of getting blue skies in Anguilla are stacked in their favor.
◆ Aficionados of spas and wellness feel right at home in Anguilla, where resort spas and fitness centers offer sparkling facilities, generous menus of treatments that include both the latest innovations and the classics, knowledgeable therapists and trainers, and classes in yoga, meditation, tai chi, aerobics, strength-building, healthy cooking…. Anguilla also has top-notch independent therapists, yoga instructors, and trainers who pay house calls to the villas.
◆ Cultural tourists enjoy the island’s heritage sites and tours, but they also like the simple fact that they can go to local BBQ stands and dance clubs without experiencing any tension or feeling out of place.
◆ Athletes of all levels like playing golf and tennis, horseback riding, and above all, the watersports of Anguilla. “On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever” is not just a Broadway show—it’s a description of the azure waters that surround this island, pristine water that’s unspoiled by excess rain runoff, factory wastes, cruise ship dumping and urban refuse. Thus, thriving coral and fish populations enthrall snorkelers and scuba divers, who also get an eyeful of various wrecks, including a Spanish galleon. Some beaches are great for kitesurfers and windsurfers, most are quiet enough for kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders, and almost everywhere, you see hobie cats and other sailboats. North Americans may think sailing is an upscale sport, but on Anguilla it’s called “boatracing,” and it’s the national sport of the island. As a staffer at one of the resorts recently told a guest, “If an Anguillian does not like boatracing, he is not a true Anguillian.”
◆ Families—nuclear, multigenerational, or extended—enjoy Anguilla as a place where they can reconnect and enjoy each others’ company in a relaxed and tranquil setting. Activities abound for all age groups, and there’s plenty to do that spans the generations.
◆ Romance travelers—Couples having destination weddings, honeymoons, big anniversaries, renewal of vows, as well as couples feeling romantic regardless of whatever the calendar says.
A Strange & Endearing Backstory
Anguilla may be the only colony in world history to have staged a rebellion that strengthened its relationship with the imperial power. This came through a series of events that would have baffled Anguilla’s earliest settlers, Amerindians who island-hopped north from South America about 3,500 years ago. The Arawaks were still there when British settlers from St. Kitts moved in around 1650, heralding the end of the indigenous people.
The Mouse that Roared?
Although the Europeans soon established cotton and sugar plantations powered by slave labor, Anguilla was never as intensely cultivated (and, therefore, never as densely populated) as some other Caribbean islands because most of the land was not arable. The planters soon gave up, and returned home, leaving the land to the small population of slaves who survived by subsistence farming and fishing. When Great Britain abolished slavery in 1834, exporting salt became a major source of income, and Anguillians found themselves owners of the land.
Great Britain ruled Anguilla as part of an entity that included St. Kitts, a forced unity resented by Anguillans who felt that St. Kitts and its sister-island, Nevis, would always have preferential treatment. When, in 1967, the United Kingdom proposed the formation of a three-island federation, Anguillians rose up in rebellion and forced the St. Kitts Police Force to flee their shores. Negotiations with the United Kingdom ensued, Anguilla was eventually given permission to secede from the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla grouping, and in 1980, Anguilla officially became a Dependent Territory with its own parliament and chief minister (somewhat akin to Puerto Rico’s level of autonomy within the United States) and no political ties to St. Kitts. Some say that this little rebellion inspired Leonard Wibberley’s great bestseller, The Mouse that Roared; unfortunately, Mr. Wibberley is no longer with us for comment.
Anguilla’s leaders didn’t resolve to steer the island toward a tourist economy until 1978, by which time about two dozen other Caribbean islands already had hotels, airlift, advertising, and other necessities up and running. But being one of the last to embrace tourism turned out to its advantage, because Anguillans had the good sense to take stock of what had and hadn’t worked with its neighbors. Seeing the drawbacks of mass tourism, in the early 1980s a few entrepreneurs opened small- and medium-sized, a la carte hotels that offered superior lodgings, cuisine, service and ambiance. Some of the hotel and villa designs reflected Anguilla’s white beaches and blue waters and sky; there was a Greek/Moorish/Mediterranean look to the buildings and an international flair to the restaurants. A British island with first-rate, international cuisine back in the pre-Food Channel era? Suddenly, Anguilla was ahead of the pack.
It still is, with hotels and beaches that keep popping up on both travel media readers’ and editors’ Top 20 lists, unspoiled beaches and seas, easy access from St. Maarten and San Juan, and an easygoing yet elegant vibe: your clients can fight the crowds somewhere else, as repeat visitors Robert De Niro and Denzel Washington might tell them, Anguilla really is the place for “tranquility wrapped in blue.”
How to Sell Anguilla
Simple. Just e-mail clients a photo of almost any Anguilla beach. If you’re feeling really ambitious, add a couple of hotel and villa shots. Then sit back and wait for a reply, which should arrive in approximately 11 seconds. That said, here’s a more detailed answer to the how-to-sell-Anguilla question—one that starts with a general summary of the island’s appeal:
Anguilla is an upmarket, not a mass market, destination with some of the most gorgeous beaches and sophisticated hotels and villas in the Caribbean. This island is for people who seek quality, not just a cheap chain resort or manmade attractions like big water parks and casinos. Because Anguilla has wisely avoided overbuilding, its legendary beaches are unspoiled by high-rise towers and cheek-by-jowl resorts. Controlled development also means that the locals don’t feel pushed off their own turf, so they welcome visitors to their island, and they mean it.
Beyond that, target the market segments that, as mentioned in “Who Loves Anguilla,” are most likely to find Anguilla irresistible:
◆ Upmarket, well-traveled clients who expect a high level of service, design, and sophistication when they stay in a villa or resort.
◆ Those clients also tend to be connoisseurs of fine cuisine, and Anguilla has been a leader in that area for 30 years, a place where resort, independent restaurants, and villa chefs are
accustomed to serving people who’ve eaten at the three-Michelin starred Le Bernardin and the like.
◆ Clients who want beautiful swimming pools will find them at Anguilla’s resorts and villas. And not only will the beach lovers find what they want in Anguilla, but they will be hard pressed to find anything like them anywhere else.
◆ People who have no patience with rainy vacations are likely to find exactly the sunny weather they want in semi-arid Anguilla.
◆ Anguilla is also an ideal destination for clients who want world-class spas and wellness programs. It’s astonishing, really, that such a tiny island could have so many fine spas and wellness therapists, yet it does.
◆ The warm welcome visitors get in Anguilla makes it a great spot for cultural tourists, whether they’re interested in talking with locals in shops and galleries, exploring historic sites, experiencing authentic beach bars, or joining in the celebrations at island festivals.
◆ Clients who appreciate tennis and non-motorized sports as well as the occasional game of golf are drawn to this island where the locals care far more about sailing than they do about buzzing around on jet-skis. Snorkelers and divers who want to see thriving populations of fish and turtles will find that here, too, because these waters have been unsullied by cruise ships or too much run-off from the land.
◆ Lovers will love Anguilla, in part because its “Tranquility in Blue” ambiance is so congenial, and in part because the hotels, villas, and restaurants have breathtakingly romantic rooms, views, and dining rooms, not to mention an ability to assure privacy and seclusion.
◆ Families who stay in the child-friendly resorts or rent a villa just once on Anguilla will come back every year because vacationing here is such a delightful experience, one that fosters togetherness and good feelings. They will also find that although Anguilla doesn’t market itself as a cheap destination, its villas can provide surprisingly good values, especially when the kitchens are taken into consideration.
Become an Anguilla Specialist
FAM trip opportunities to one of the Caribbean’s most elegant destinations, prizes from gift cards to tablets, and consumer leads—these are just a few of the perks you can take advantage of when you sign up for the Anguilla Travel Agent Specialist Program and become a “CATS,” Certified Anguilla Travel Specialist!
Visit edu.recommend.com/anguilla, review the course material, take the 20-question exam and take advantage of the rewarding incentives program that also comes with a customized certificate, The Travel Institute and Association of Canadian Travel Agencies credits, and much more. You can read through the course material here or online, and then take the 20-question exam at edu.recommend.com/anguilla.