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A Palawan, Indonesia resort, far surpassing anything we have on the mainland.
A Palawan, Indonesia resort, far surpassing anything we have on the mainland.
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By C. ben-David

Travel + Leisure is a popular travel magazine and internet site based in New York City. Published monthly, the magazine has nearly five million readers and has conducted an annual subscriber survey rating vacation destinations and travel providers for over 20 years. It just released its 2017 list of the world’s top 10 tourist islands and top 15 Caribbean island holiday destinations based on the rankings of its readers.

An analysis of these results teaches important lessons for the likely success of the recently opened Argyle International Airport (AIA).

The “World’s Top 10 Islands” 2017, in descending order, are: (1) Palawan, Indonesia; (2) Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA; (3) Boracay Island, Philippines; (4) Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; (5) Santorini Islands, Greece; (6) Maui, Hawaii; (7) Kauai, Hawaii; (8) Ischia, Italy; (9) Hvar and Dalmatian Islands, Croatia; and (10) Bali, Indonesia.

Not one Caribbean island graces this list even though the archipelago is easily and cheaply reached from North America and Western Europe, home to tens of millions of international tourists. Conversely, three of the top islands are in Asia which makes accessing them from Western countries both inconvenient — one or more stops, often requiring an overnight stay — and expensive.

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For example, the cheapest return flight from London to Bali in mid-January involves one stop and a plane change both ways plus 36 hours flying time; on the same dates, the cheapest return flight from London to Barbados uses nonstop flights totaling only 17 hours flying time. Despite the greater inconvenience and 11 per cent higher air fare of flying to Bali, the island received 221,149 British visitors in 2016, or 2,500 more than visited popular Barbados, an island with inexorable historical, political, economic, and cultural ties to the former motherland.

A slice of Bali
A slice of Bali, Indonesia, highlighting what we lack on SVI.

But even the two popular Hawaiian islands don’t offer non-stop North American air service from outside western United States or Canada, thereby necessitating an inconvenient and time-consuming stopover for those travelling from densely populated areas via large eastern airport hubs. Still, Maui and Kauai recorded 2.6 million and 1.2 million stopover visitors in 2016, respectively, most of them from mainland USA.

For those unwilling to drive there from afar, air travel from the large hubs in New York City and Miami to Hilton Head Island — all three on the east coast of the USA — requires a stopover and transfer to a small plane, a hardship which has not deterred nearly 3 million annual visitors to the 42 square mile (68 sq. km.) island.

As for the three European island favourites, each can be reached only by ferry or small commuter plane.

Sunset at Oia
Sunset at Oia, a popular village in Santorini, Greece. What village do we have to match this?

Finally, the remote eco-tourism Galapagos islands are accessible only by boat.

All this suggests that the justification given by our Prime Minister, the Honourable Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, in his “famous” August 8, 2005 speech that, “Our country’s tourism potential would not be fully realised unless we build an international airport” certainly does not apply to the world’s top 10 islands and scores more like it.

Moreover, the Honourable Prime Minister has never satisfactorily revealed how and why the construction of AIA would fully realise our country’s tourism potential.

The presence of two Hawaiian islands on a list of the world’s top 10 also begs the question of why this small American archipelago, the most isolated population centre on the face of the earth — 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; 4,900 miles from China; and 5,280 miles from the Philippines — is such a beloved holiday destination.

It is certainly not because Hawaii has the most famous black sand beaches in the world: many of them are unsuitable for swimming owing to rough seas or dangerous currents. Those that are safe entertain few tourist sun worshippers and seabathers given their abrasive granular composition and recognition that walking barefoot can cause burns because black sand absorbs much more solar radiation than white sand.

Black sand Hawaiian beaches
Black sand Hawaiian beaches are suitable mainly for strolling and turtle watching.





Gritty Hawaiian black
Gritty Hawaiian black volcanic sand that is even coarser than our own.

By comparison, its magnificent white and golden sand beaches are a delight to most tourists.

Gold coloured Kaanapali Beach
Gold-coloured Kaanapali Beach, Maui. Which of our mainland beaches compare?

As for the top 15 islands in the Caribbean Sea, they include several that I have already discussed in this series of essays plus many that appear on other rankings. In descending order, they are: (1) Anguilla; (2) Culebra, Puerto Rico; (3) Vieques, Puerto Rico; (4) Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands; (5) St. John, British Virgin Islands; (6) Harbour Island, The Bahamas; (7) Bermuda (technically in the north Atlantic Ocean); (8) Exuma, The Bahamas; (9) Turks and Caicos Islands; (10) Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands; (11) St. Bart’s; (12) St. Lucia; (13) Aruba; (14) Abacos, The Bahamas; and (15) Nevis.

It is worth noting that 10 of the 15 continue to be colonial or semi-colonial possessions, testimony to the fact that Great Britain, Holland, and the United States gladly relinquished control of those overseas territories that showed little developmental potential.

The fact that islands belonging to The Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands make up fully six of these 15 is also worth noting though the main reason for this is straightforward: the presence of some the most beautiful and spectacular white and pink sand beaches in the region.

A typical Bahamian beach

A typical Bahamian beach, why 5-6 million tourists visit every year and why so few tourists sojourn on our mainland.

But the most important fact to note is that reaching these highly rated islands from North America and Western Europe, the main source of holiday visitors, involves either a nonstop flight or a brief transit through one of many comfortable regional hubs: Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Trinidad/Tobago, Aruba, Guadeloupe, and Barbados.

Those without an international airport are Anguilla, Culebra, Vieques, Virgin Gorda, St. John, all but one of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Jost Van Dyke, St. Bart’s, and Nevis. In short, most of the 15 islands. But these highly regarded holiday destinations are all well served by public ferry or small commuter plane from nearby islands with international airports.

Despite the lack of an international airport and comparatively late state as a Caribbean tourist destination, tiny Anguilla (35 sq. mi.), for example, welcomed 79,239 tourists in 2016 while we received 7,200, or less than one-tenth that number, last year (see essay number 49 below) even though SVI is nearly four times larger in area and began receiving tourists decades before Anguilla.

One of Anguilla’s 33 pristine copy

One of Anguilla’s 33 pristine white sand beaches, a feature we lack on St. Vincent Island.

The thriving tourism industries in these “best tourist islands” without an international airport, but with lots of white sand beaches, is more evidence that Dr. Gansalves’ contention that, “Our country’s tourism potential would not be fully realised unless we build an international airport” was just mischievous speculation rooted in political aggrandizement by a man with no hospitality industry expertise.

If we even needed one, this is yet another reason why AIA is doomed to go down in history as “an airport without a cause” (see essay number 11 below). 


This is the 58th in a series of essays on the AIA folly. My other AIA essays are listed below:

  1. Get ready for a November election!
  2. Lessons for Argyle Airport from Canada’s Montreal–Mirabel Int’l
  3. Lessons for Argyle Int’l Airport from the cruise industry
  4. Lessons from Target Canada for Argyle Int’l Airport
  5. Lessons from Trinidad & Tobago for Argyle Int’l Airport
  6. The Dark Side of Tourism: Lessons for Argyle Airport
  7. Why Argyle Won’t Fly: Lessons from Dominica
  8. Ken Boyea and the Phantom City at Arnos Vale
  9. Airport Envy Vincy-Style
  10. Fully realising our country’s tourism potential
  11. Airport without a cause
  12. The unnatural place for an international airport
  13. The Potemkin Folly at Argyle
  14. False patriotism and deceitful promises at Argyle
  15. Airport politics and betrayal Vincy-Style
  16. Phony airport completion election promises, Vincy-style
  17. Is Argyle Airport really a ‘huge game-changer for us?’
  18. Has the cat got your tongue, Prime Minister?
  19. More proof that Argyle won’t fly
  20. Our very own Vincentian cargo cult at Argyle
  21. The missing Argyle Airport feasibility studies
  22. The world’s four most amazing abandoned airports
  23. Farming, fishing, and foolish talk about Argyle International Airport
  24. Argyle Airport amateur hour
  25. Vincent’s place in the world of travel
  26. Investing in St. Vincent’s Tourism Industry
  27. The Argyle Airport prophecy: what the numbers say
  28. Why Qatar? Why St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
  29. Did the IMF drink the Comrade’s Kool-Aid?
  30. Foolish words about Argyle International Airport
  31. ‘If I come, you will build it’: Lessons from the Maldives for Argyle Airport
  32. Urban lessons for Argyle International Airport
  33. Who really lands at Arnos Vale?
  34. No ticky, No washy — Argyle-Style
  35. We have met the Vincentian tourism enemy and he is us
  36. Hotel Saint Vincent
  37. Why St. Vincent Island has so few tourists 
  38. Why Bequia is a gem of the Antilles
  39. Why seeing is believing in the Caribbean tourism industry
  40. St. Vincent’s cruise ship numbers are much lower than we think
  41. Lessons from Barbados for Argyle Airport
  42. Cuba’s tourism rollercoaster: Lessons for Argyle Airport
  43. What the world teaches Black Sands Resort and Villas
  44. Not all Argyle Airport critics are ‘internet crazies’
  45. The media’s take on the opening of Argyle Airport
  46. Why Roraima Airways? Lessons for Argyle Airport
  47. Our Argyle International Airport ‘veritable miracle’
  48. From ‘poppy show’ to campaign rally: The Argyle Airport opening
  49. St. Vincent’s 2016 tourism numbers are nothing to brag about
  50. Going forward or marching in place? Lessons for Argyle airport
  51. The Visible Hand of Adam Smith at Argyle International Airport
  52. St. Vincent Island doesn’t need any more hotel rooms
  53. Lessons from St Lucia and Grenada for AIA
  54. Is Air Canada also a ‘huge game-changer’ for AIA?
  55. St. Vincent’s mainland tourist attractions
  56. How St. Vincent’s tourist attractions stack up lessons for AIA
  57. Lessons from Guyana for AIA

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

23 replies on “The world’s best tourist islands: Lessons for AIA”

  1. Everything this man writes headlines, ‘Lessons for AIA.’ AIA is there you are desperate for it to fail. What do you want Blood? What % of the development of the tourism product falls on the AIA? Does the AIA goes out & source tourism development? Is it the responsibility of the AIA to set tourism policy? Is it the responsibility of the AIA to market the tourism product? The AIA is simply a catalyst or conduit for development in Agriculture, Tourism, Manufacturing and other areas. Just a quick question, have you seen the number of private jets parked at AXA airport during Easter and Christmas? Do you have data on the number of visitors to AXA going through SXM? Why do you get sleepless nights over AIA?

    1. C. ben-David says:

      Can’t you read G.G. or can you read but not comprehend what is written? The theme of this essay, and many others before it, has been to explore the Prime Minister’s contention that, “Our country’s tourism potential would not be fully realised unless we build an international airport.”

      What part of that objective of his (and my rebuttal) don’t you understand?

      Yes, you are certainly correct that, “The AIA is simply a catalyst or conduit for development in Agriculture, Tourism, Manufacturing and other areas.” My research, as expressed in these essays, is that AIA will never be anything close to the positive cost-benefit catalyst or conduit it was intended to be by the expenditure of over $EC 700 million.

      I fail to understand the relevance of flights between St. Martin (which has long had an international airport) and Anguilla (which only has a regional facility) to the present discussion. Kindly illuminate me.

  2. Everyone is sick and tired of your continual battering of Saint Vincent which is now little more than abuse of the nation. The airport is built, the island is what it is, black sand and crap ill maintained tourist destinations on the island. We all know that your attempt to demoralise the nation is little more than a back door attack on the comrade. The coward in you just will not let you step out of your fancy-dress disguise as a Jewish professor pretending to be a PhD scholar. Your use of a name that is not a matter of using an alias, but the whole theft of another’s identity.

    Take a leaf from the book of your superiors, Marki Spring, Patrick Ferrari, Vinci Man, who all use their real names. Just try this kind of crap in your home town in Canada, they will hunt you down until you exist no more.

    It’s time to give up this crap and give your arse a chance.

    1. C. ben-David says:

      Peter, whose multiple identities have you not stolen? Yes, you would love to see me take off my “cowardly” mask so that I can be assassinated, an act which would immediately cause you to rise from the grave.

      And please don’t insult Patrick Ferrari, one of the most beloved commentators in Vinci-space, by lumping him in with intellectual imposters like Markie Spring and Vinci Vin Samuel.

      1. Why would anyone want to assasinate you? What have you done wrong, who have you done wrong to?

        By the way I never mentioned Vinci Vin Samuel, but he is another who is most definatly your superior.

        Patrick would never take what I wrote as an insult, he is a much bigger man than you, that is just you trying to introduce spite and malice.

        I hope you are not comparing yourself with Glen Jackson, I know there are certain similarities between you, but give us a break and stop being a jerk.

  3. Get a life and something else to write about , i get the point. It seems to me you the AIA to fail.

    1. Look how ignorant you Vincentians are AIA is a big joke for Ralph to get back into power Look how stupid and brain wash all of you are. Carnival just finished how many people fly in for the carnival not much I still fly from fort Lauderdale international to Barbados or Trinidad not even a straight flight from miami international don’t you think that’s bullshit.

      1. I get your point Carl, we ignorant, but we not dumb enough to expect that direct international flights will come into AIA so soon. We ignorant, but we know it will take time for International Carriers to a just their schedule in order to fly into AIA. We ignorant, but how come we know International Carriers do not simply pull a plane out of one area & send it to another or lease or buy a plane to simply fly into AIA . Vincentians voted way back in 2001 for AIA & reasonable people will know it was not the major deciding factor for subsequent ULP victories & it will not be for the next Elections. So you the specially gifted & highly talented one, tell us how to get direct flights from MIA to AIA.

      2. Peter Appollo says:

        Carl you need to make up your mind and tell us exactly where you flew from before coming to AIA, is either you don’t know or you LIE you did not come here.

      1. In your case David it may be partly envy that drives you, but you are also driven by hatred, spite and malice. You are a fraud of the first order who once claimed 99% of what you write is untrue and pure BS.

  4. Peter Appollo says:

    C.ben- David,
    Kike you want the comrade to turn the volcanic island St. Vincent into a limestone one so that you can have the clear pristine white sand.
    There are millions of reasons to hate Ralph Gonsalves,but give me one why you hate SVG. If the construction of the AIA is one, then you need to congratulate him for his skills which many including you do not have. Criticise him as much as you like , but please stop your hate and bad mindedness towards SVG.
    I know you are not a Vincentian by birth,but that is not a reason to hate SVG,leave us and our AIA alone.

    1. C. ben-David says:

      Too bad that you are so dotish as to equate a critical analysis of a public policy decision — in this case constructing an international airport — with a hatred of the country of one’s birth.

      Still, your views, shared by many, is why a series of governments have been able to fool us for so long with their poorly conceived development projects.

      1. But that is just what it is coming from a torrent of critisism that is never ending. The whole thing is spiteful and malicious. I am quite sure you hate Saint Vincent and Vincentians, certainly the comrade.

        Cowardly behavior is your mode of operandi, hide beind a stolen identity and slag off Saint Vincent, Vincentians, readers, other writers.

        Why don’t you try and write about something else pleasant for a change, quit the hatred and malice and attack of other people, the disrespect of your superiors.

        It’s time for you to have the poodle brain transplant.

  5. Veridical ,

    There you go again C. ben -David , it is quite evident that You have a serious fixation on the Argyle International Airport & the fact that on mainland SVG , there are Beaches with Black sand . I sometimes wonder if You are indeed a
    Vincentian , because , WE have a Unitary NATION called : ST. VINCENT & the GRENADINES .

    Now that being the case , the Beaches in the Grenadines are also part of the
    State , known as St. Vincent & the Grenadines . That being a freaking fact obviously means that any discussion about Beaches must ,from this perspective
    include beaches in the Grenadines .

    However You relish divorcing the Beaches in the Grenadines , from the mainland .while completely beating a dead horse ; when Tourist visit the Grenadines , the
    income derived , benefits the state called St. Vincent & the Grenadines . I have stated to you previously that it is asinine to expect Hoteliers & Hotel Chains to build Hotels on the mainland if there is not an International Airport .

    The AIA is now a reality , therefore , in time there would be more Airlines , coming to the AIA & Business people in the Hotel Industry will put up Hotels on
    the mainland . Evidently , you may have seen a new born baby walking , I have
    never witnessed such a phenomenon . There is absolutely no doubt that Airlines will come to the AIA , They will obviously put the AIA in their schedule ; and Hotels will come to the mainland . YOU obviously have never heard of the adage:


    I am beginning to believe that You are abusing your power as the Owner of this
    online Newspaper by writing these series of Articles , that are very critical of
    Mainland SVG . Now if 3 or 4 years from now , what you have cited regarding the AIA & Hotels is true then I will be happy to state that Your assessment was
    correct .

    In essence , you want everything done in a hurry , when you very well know that
    things do not happen overnight . You need to stop peddling premature Gloom .
    I noticed that since I informed you about beaches in Hawaii have Black sand you
    have shown one , however the picture of the one you showed , seemed to have
    rough waves , hence people were not bathing there . That gave you an opportunity to state that beach was only for strolling . However on the mainland
    as you very well know the Sea on the Leeward side , are calm because they are
    protected from the Winds of the Atlantic Ocean .

    1. C. ben-David says:

      Actually, it took 1,009,491 days to build Rome based on the traditional founding of the city (21 April 753 BCE), which works out to 276 years. We will all be long dead by then, if this applied to AIA!

      But you say that it would take 3 or 4 years to see if AIA is a success. God willing, we will soon see who is right and who is an ass.

  6. Peter Appollo says:

    C.ben David
    The great researcher, you are so concern about AIA and tourism development,yet there is no known article by you before the construction of the AIA, to suggest that the AIA is no answer for tourism development in St.Vincent. You so bad minded you waited until it was in construction and completed and operational to find all kinds of negativity to say why it can not name GOD.
    We are not taking anything from your country of birth.We know they never wanted SVG to have the AIA. , but it is here .TEK DAT.

  7. Dave Hendrickson says:

    It is quite clear to me C.ben-David shouldn’t even reply to none of your comments.All of you who are bashing him, are actually supporting his arguements.I don’t know C.ben-David,but i tell you all this;when the dust has settled on this airport,C.ben-David could have a best seller from those essays.The prime minister should probably buy an airbus,that will make some of you even more happy.It seems to me just a periodical flight here and there is needed to make some of you happy.

  8. C ben.David,

    YOU have failed to mention the fact that the NDP was in the governance of
    SVG for 17 YEARS , not 17 Weeks ; 17 Months , but 17 Freaking Years . It is
    obviously , at least to me that had the building of an International Airport in
    mainland St. Vincent , by now the Tourist Industry , the Hotel Industry and ancillary Amenities would be in full swing .

    In essence your numerous Essays would have been Moot . However Your
    acute case of Myopia , prevents YOU from seeing or understanding this fact .
    Obviously if the NDP had built an International Airport , during its 17 years in
    Office , the cost would have been much less than the cost of the AIA .

    Unfortunately your Myopia , prevents You from understanding that for every year that an International Airport was built , the cost not only went up by millions of dollars . Hoteliers , and persons in the Tourist Industry overlooked
    Mainland SVG , because of its lack of an International Airport .

    Those things it seems have never ever entered your mind ; despite the fact that it is plain simple commonsense . Any Youngster going to sit the Examination to go to a Secondary School knows this , I do believe that You also are fully aware of this . But apparently it seems that You have a Vendetta
    against the current Government , if that is the case Tell US :


    Get it off Your Chest , so hopefully , WE can sympathize with you , and
    understand your Crusade against the Argyle International Airport & the current Government of St. Vincent & the Grenadines .

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