Ben Kilbey in London
The Caribbean is home to some of the worlds most exclusive resorts. Some of the worlds most luxurious and exclusive getaways are located in the region. Shortly a new level of luxury is to make its mark; Raffles is opening on the island of Canouan.
Raffles Resort Canouan Island is located on Canouan Island in the heart of the Grenadines in the south-eastern Caribbean. The resort is set on 300 acres of a 1,200 acre private estate featuring three secluded white sand beaches, all surrounded by one of the world’s largest coral reefs. The new Raffles Resort is set in an amphitheatre style around the protected bay with each of the 156 accommodations offering breathtaking views.
Canouan Island is truly in the heart of The Grenadines, a region known for its unsurpassed sailing, marine life and Caribbean charm. Located just 110 miles west of Barbados, Canouan is a short flight away from the other Grenadine Islands of Mustique, Bequia, Petit St. Vincent, and the Tobago keys.
With this St. Vincent and the Grenadines is set to re-establish itself on the Caribbean map. The island nations are set to boom in the high end market. Caribbean Travel News caught up with Hon. Rene Baptiste, the islands Minister of Tourism at this years ITB Berlin to discuss developments, the future and the safety that the Caribbean offers to travellers. Everybody is Trumps up.
As the Caribbean evolves into another year predictions are indicative of a positive year for the region in terms of tourism, do you also perceive this as being the case?
The region is definitely expecting a positive year due to the fact that: The visitors are looking for security and stability and that is what the long-haul destinations such at the Caribbean has to offer, Secondly, our longer staying visitors from the European Countries will find that we are no longer an expensive destination because of the following exchange rate of the US dollar to which the EC dollar tied
With the opening of one of the Caribbean’s most luxurious resorts, Raffles on Canouan, what prospects does this hold for your island nation? Is this an exciting project for you and what do you envisage this development in bringing to your destination? (How important is the development to you personally?)
Prospects Raffles, a Singaporean Company manages a collection of the world’s finest properties, in Asia, Europe and North America. This is Raffles first venture in the Caribbean. It is a company with one hundred and sixteen year experience as a luxury hotel and resort operator. The Raffles philosophy of a successful hotel is a place where you are treated so well that you want to come back. It goes beyond its location, its decor and its amenities. B. Development will bring - It is certainly an exciting project for me. I am happy that all of this development is happening during my first term as Minister of Tourism and Culture. The government is moving rapidly on the issue of providing a jet port for Canouan which is expected to cost some twenty-five million US dollars (US25 000 000.00.) The golf course designed by world renown Jim Fazio who re-designed the present course to a full 18 hole championship course which experts agreed would give the finest views from a golf course anywhere in the world. The Trump Organization - renowned property developers will certainly take the Canouan Real Estate project to new heights with a programme of private villas on and around the golf course with starting prices of US$1,000,000.00. For the high rollers, Trump Casinos will run the gaming of the Trump “Club Privee” at the Villa Monte Carlo. The Moorings operation on Canouan is just over one year old and is now second only to Tortola in advanced booking requests. Last but not least the development will provide employment for nationals, thereby generating income and much needed foreign exchange and growth in the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
As the war of the cruise sector rages on - should there be additional tax should there not? - What are your views on the sector and how important is this sector to your tourism arrivals? Do you feel that additional taxation should be implemented?
The development of the Cruise industry is expected to create opportunities for ground tour operators, taxi drivers and tour guides to benefit from cruise tourism. It is also expected to facilitate a greater spread of the tourist dollar, particularly on “mainland” St. Vincent The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is cognizant that cruise tourism has the potential to be an important sub-sector in the overall tourism industry of the country and it is for this reason that the head tax in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been reduced The cruise passenger is seen as a potential stay over passenger.
As we evolve into a more internet savvy civilization and society, more and more people are utilizing the internet to book holidays and choose destinations. It is estimated that there are some 47 million subscribers to the internet in the US alone. For this reason, do you foresee the “net” as being your best tool in obtaining business globally? How much of your budget at present goes towards internet marketing? Will this increase as the years evolve?
Without a doubt the internet is an excellent vehicle to present our country to millions of potential visitors. At present a substantial sum of our budget for Marketing is going towards internet marketing. This will increase as the years evolve to facilitate the enhancement of the site. Making it even more attractive, more user friendly and interactive.
How important is the dive market in drawing business from the European market? Explain a little about its difference from other sites across the globe - and more aptly other Caribbean competitors?
Diving is one of our niche markets in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This country continues to receive numerous awards for best diving destination of the world. Each dive site on St. Vincent has its own unique subset of the area’s marine life and offers divers unspoiled reef and an incredible diversity of marine life. SVG was recently named Top diving Destination by Caribbean World Magazine. Diving enthusiasts boast that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has some of the most pristine reefs they have encountered in the Eastern Caribbean. This is because we are the relatively unknown. This trend has however been changing, due to our participation in the largest Scuba Dive Show in the world (DEMA), and in ads and articles published in the leading dive magazine such as Rodales Scuba Dive Magazine, Sport Diver Magazine and Skin Diver Magazine. The dive shops are reporting growing number of divers expressing interest via the internet, many of which result in bookings. In July/August 2003 - Reefnet’s Galleries reported that they photo shoot - “Species new to science”, some are the first even taken of known species, and others are yet to be identified.
How important is the European market to you and what strategies will you employ to increase the market share of European visitors in 2004/05?
The European market is the largest market for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The visitors spend a longer visit than the Americans and Canadians and spend much more money. The Ministry has just contracted a Public Relations company - Westminster Communication Group in the U.K., which will connect to the media networks, and give major exposure through key newspapers, TV and travel-related trade magazines. We will also continue to participate the major Trade Shows in Europe such as ITB and WTM along with other trade shows, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines - London Tourist office will step up on promotional activities such as road shows, travel agents seminars and fam tours to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
What sets you apart from Caribbean neighbours?
We are an archipelago of 32 islands and cays (the only one in the Southern Caribbean) we offer a colourful mix of eco-tourism and resort tourism here. Everything from dense primeval rainforest, and waterfalls to stretches of coral sand beaches and sparkling blue waters. There are unrivalled dive experiences, the excitement of hopping from island to island, heritage tourism and bird watching, festivals and regattas.
How important is eco tourism to St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
The island is blessed to be a multi island destination which offers a diverse product, where as the Grenadines offers a resort type of product along with sun, sea, sand, sailing and diving. The main island offers nature or Eco tourism, waterfall, botanic gardens (the oldest in the western hemisphere), bird watching, mountain climbing, nature trails and dolphin & whale watching.
What is St. Vincent and the Grenadines stance on Sustainable tourism? Please elaborate.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is strongly in favour of sustainable tourism - eco-tourism allows people to explore and enjoy nature without disturbing the eco-balance of the environment, be it land, forestry, marine life, historical sites, architecture or cultural folklore. It also provides the opportunity for local residents to gain economic benefits from natural and cultural resources while protecting them. It points local residents to a way that forgoes destructive practices like the cultivation of banana above the water catchments area in favour of more environmentally - friendly best practices. The Vermont Nature Trail and parrot reserve is a good example of an eco-tourism project that practices and encourage conservation and at the same time provides the opportunity for local residents to benefit. In keeping with the reality that Canouan is small island with its own culture and people, the Government last year commissioned world - class company Ed Stone and Associates to develop a sustainable development plan which was presented and very well received by the local population.