Savoring St. Vincent & the Grenadines

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.