Director of sales for St. Vincent and the Grenadines Shelley John discusses the destination & its new airport, opening in 2013
|Shelley John, director of sales, St. Vincent & the Grenadines
More than 5,000 Canadians visited St. Vincent and the Grenadines between January and September 2011, according to the latest statistics available from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
But, because of the lack of direct flights, Shelley John, director of sales in Canada for the destination’s tourism office, admits that access is a major setback in attracting more visitors.
That’s all expected to soon change as St. Vincent gears up to open Argyle International Airport by the end of 2013, a work that has been in progress for many years.
Boasting black and white sand beaches, active volcanoes and plenty of opportunity for diving, sailing and ecotourism, John said it offers “many things all in one.”
TRAVELHotNews.com sat down with John last month to talk about the destination, what it has to offer Canadian travellers and new developments that could result in growing visitation numbers.
Tell us about the new airport being built.
Right now, Canadians who visit St. Vincent and the Grenadines have to fly to Barbados (about a five hour flight) and then it’s another half hour to St. Vincent. Generally, people from across Canada don’t like connecting so it becomes a very long trip. We expect to open our new international airport in 2013, and that’s going to open lots and lots of doors. We are speaking to all the major operators out of Canada into the Caribbean, as well as others across North America and Europe to get direct service once the airport opens.
Is St. Vincent and the Grenadines a destination for the more affluent traveller?
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has 32 islands and keys, only five of which are inhabited, so we offer a wide array for visitors. We have resort islands and we also have islands that have inhabitants and resorts. So you have a choice. It’s not necessarily for the affluent because of the range of accommodations – apartments, boutique hotels, resorts.
What is your target market?
Our biggest niche markets are diving, sailing, weddings and honeymoons, and ecotourism. Family falls into it naturally but those are our main markets.
What role do Canadians play in tourism to St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
Each year, we have been increasing by at least 10 per cent so we expect to see that continue. The Canadian market has held much better than the U.S. Canadians tend to make sure that if nothing else, at least they have their vacation. Canadian travellers and those from the U.K. stay the longest – maybe 10 to 14 days.
Canadians tend to do their research online. If they see something, they’ll check it out and you’ll find they will then call their travel agent.