Visitors to SVG walk along the beach in Buccament Bay in April 2016. (iWN photo)

By Ivona Bradley

Now that the long-awaited international airport is finally open and in business, and airlines are being wooed as we speak, the focus has shifted to tourism, specifically tourism on the mainland (island of St. Vincent).

While tourism is not a new concept for the Grenadines — which have been welcoming tourists to their white sand beaches, calm seawaters and quiet genteel villas for decades — the main island has much work to do to attract tourists on the type of scale that tourism authorities have been promising for years.

The table below summarises a few key tourist attractions and activities (on the mainland) that are the norm for Caribbean tourism. At a glance, one can see that the island falls short on many fronts. Well-intentioned Vincentians will defend the status quo saying: “We don’t want to corrupt our island with immoral activities such as gambling, nudity, smoking ganja or gay tourists”. The answer to that is tourists will simply go elsewhere. One can visit casinos in St. Maarten, enjoy nude beaches in Jamaica, topless swimming and sunbathing in the Dominican Republic, and be welcome in gay-friendly Dutch islands such as Curacao, Aruba, and Saba. Marijuana is being decriminalised or at the very least, ignored by authorities in many tourist destinations, Florida being the latest.

If “immoral” tourism is out, where does that leave St. Vincent? World-class five-star resorts? No. Gourmet dining? No. Wildlife? No. Festivals? Well, maybe. Most of the music festivals that are held here are on the islands of Mustique and Bequia. The biggest annual festival on the island, the Vincy carnival, tends to attract mostly Vincentians — here and from abroad — and not tourists per se.

On the plus side, the island does possess a plethora of natural beauty; rugged windward coastline, waterfalls, lush mountains, rivers, mineral springs, safe drinking water and secluded beaches on the Leeward. It is well situated with a year-round warm climate with cooling tradewinds. It is also home to many artists and craftspeople.

So while St. Vincent won’t attract animals lovers, naturists (i.e. nudists), gamblers, gays or tourists wanting luxury or all-inclusive resorts at this time, areas ripe for tourism development could be the beaches (make them clean, accessible, and provide basic services) nature parks (think Richmond Vale, Yurumei Horse farm, Soufriere, etc., on a larger scale) hiking/backpacking (create additional, well-marked and maintained hiking trails and campgrounds). How about a zipline? Then there are water sports such as diving and surfing including schools. With all the artists and crafts people on island, why not a centrally located and well-stocked arts and crafts centre?

The various tourism organisations along with the people of St. Vincent need to put on their “thinking caps” and hone in on the tourism product(s) that will generate interest and ultimately add significantly to the national economy, while at the same time preserving and promoting the ecology. It’s not good enough to simply boast a new airport and a catchy slogan. After all, every Caribbean island already has that. St. Vincent needs to find its own unique tourism niche and offer the tourist something special and fresh that other islands don’t, or at the very least, offer the same in an original, affordable and inspiring way.

Beaches LIMITED While there are several picturesque swimmable beaches on the Leeward side of island, they are difficult to find, difficult to get to and provide few, if any amenities. The small beaches in the Villa area are over-crowded with limited shade and amenities. Beaches on the Windward side, while very picturesque, are unsafe for swimming and water sports, and access is difficult.
     
Diving/snorkelling LIMITED Diving is very good, but the island lacks a decompression facility, people have to be evacuated to other countries for treatment.

Snorkelling, especially off beach is limited due to destruction of reefs and sea life.

     
Gambling/Casinos NO  
     
Luxury/Duty Free shopping NO  
     
Archeological/Historical sites LIMITED A few sites exist, such as Fort Charlotte and Duvernette, but these aren’t very well maintained and lack extensive artefacts
     
Nature, Eco Tourism (i.e. whale watching) LIMITED A few nature trails exist, but they are difficult to find and get to. Nature watching is limited due to legal hunting of wildlife including sea mammals.
     
Botanical Gardens YES Two lovely gardens exist. Montreal Gardens is difficult to get to due to poor roads and quirky opening hours.
     
Sailing, yachting YES Several charter companies exist, but most of the sailing and yachting is done outside of the main island.
     
Camping NO  
     
Gastronomy, Gourmet dining NO While there are a handful of tourist class restaurants on the island, there aren’t any that can be labelled “gourmet”.
     
All Inclusive Resorts NO The only A/I resort (Buccament) is currently closed.
     
Attractive, walkable tourist friendly capital NO Kingstown lacks clean and tourist-friendly outdoor cafes and bars, there is no green space, and the smell of urine is ubiquitous.
     
LGBQT friendly NO Homosexuality is still illegal.
     
Legal Marijuana NO People are still arrested for possession.
     
Nudist, “au naturel’ beaches NO Nudity and topless bathing is not legal.
     
Year round warm climate YES  
     
Safe drinking water/mineral springs YES  
     
Animal control NO Animal cruelty law is not enforced. No leash, microchip nor spay/neuter laws exist for dog control. Dogs and cattle roam freely. No animal shelter exists.
     
Surfing/Surfing school NO The small surfing school at Blue Lagoon has closed.
     
Horse Back Riding YES  
     
Zip lines NO  
     
Arts and Crafts YES Difficult to find, no central art/crafts market exists

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 news.iwitness@gmail.com.

41 COMMENTS

  1. @ Ivona Bradley I like the way you push and pull factors that needed much attention for the development of our tourism sector. There’s a certain individual who’s going to comment on your opinion and that individual is going to put a twist on what you write and said it written before.

    Some of those don’t have that you point out I blame it on previous administration, present administration and also fellow citizens. Laziness attracts nastiness and you are dead right when you say about our capital and the current state.

    But all hope is not lost things will have to fall in place if we looking down that road. Big thumbs up to BEACHE and McKIE for they are doing there a wonderful job in putting SVG on the map.

      • “Kingstown lacks clean and tourist-friendly outdoor cafes and bars, there is no green space, and the smell of urine is ubiquitous.” Are these my words or her words.

      • I humbly retract this comment with apologies to JJ. (On second reading, I didn’t re-read the table when I composed this post.)

  2. This article shows that the mainland has a long, long way to go if it wants to attract tourists. What is not mentioned is safety. I have gotten to know people in Europe but they could not come to visit with a tour company. THE TOUR COMPANY REFUSES TO COME HERE BECAUSE THEY SAY SAINT VINCENT IS DEEMED UNSAFE FOR TOURISTS! And, of course, there is a high incidence of theft here, as in some other Caribbean Islands, but we have, I believe the highest incidence of rape, which the government and much of society do not seem to think is very serious, but…tourists do!

  3. Excellent and balanced summary but which fails to mention the poor supporting infrastructure (roads, etc.), no nightlife or other entertainment, the absence of suitable amenities and attractions in the capital, etc.

    • Good point about the nightlife….or the lack thereof.As to the roads, I was leaving the infrastructure issue out of it b/c it’s not directly linked to tourism, per se. As an example, Costa Rica has (or at least they did when we visited) some of the worst roads in that part of the world. And yet, people flock to that country year after year. We asked a tour guide why the roads haven’t been fixed, and he replied that if they fixed them, then the country would be so over-run with tourists and cars that it would be a total nightmare….lol….

      • When our daughter toured much of the country from east to west several years ago she found the Costa Rica roads acceptable. The problem is that when roads are rebuilt or resurfaced in many countries, including rich ones, they are allowed to deleriorate until almost undriveable.

  4. Great article. Mainland SVG have a long way to go in being recognize as a great tourist destination. Too much begging, little or no shopping, roads need to be upgraded. We need to take a serious approach if we need to attract many foreign visitors to SVG

  5. Bradley, first and foremost, you aren’t a Vincenian. Secondly, you knows nothing about SVG. I recently had a clast with you regarding a Facebook comment, just stay out of our affairs.

    • So, only people born here have a right to say anything, good, bad, or indifferent, about our country?

      So, Vincentians who migrate to the United States have no right to say or write anything about their adopted country, including complaining about, say, racial slurs being hurled at them. According to you, such people should just suck it up or go back where they came from.

      Yes, We all know that there are thousands of our people that believe foreigners can only speak if they say nice things about little SVG, a belief rooted in our ingrained sense of inferiority and immaturity as a sovereighn people.

      If we truly love our country, we should be strong, independent, proud and resilient enough to withstand the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune [fate]” (Hamlet, Act III, Scene I).

      Shakespeare tell us with these immortal words that sometimes life sucks; sometimes there are problems with no solutions; sometimes we have to accept reality for what it is.

      Only someone with an insecure and childish mind would tell someone who has lived here for many years, pays taxes here, spends lots of foreign income here, and loves our country as much as we all do, to “just stay out of our affairs.”

      I guess my AIA essays have really driven you to the brink of insanity. Check yourself before the powers that be send you to the mental home for examination.

      • If sent by the court or other body to the mental home for observation, I guarantee that one of the psychiatric disorders you would be found to be carrying would be “acute xenophobia.”

    • Sorry hon. As long as I am paying my taxes, paying the salaries and insurance of my workers, and living here full time, I most definitely have a say in the affairs of my adopted country. And if you say I ‘know nothing’ about SVG, please do educate me as I am a very eager student. 😉

      • I totally agree with you, don’t let any naysayers deter your open minded unbias approach, if these points are followed one by one and put into action SVG tourism will be sky rocketed by leaps and bounds. I think you should be given a post as real tourism adviser.

    • observer I am a vincentian and I totally disagree with you, these comments are valid and helpful. you are such a fool and it’s people like you why we can’t move forward

  6. Well said Bradley you have to start somewhere why not in the city those outdated bathrooms have to be upgraded, and why you charge your people to use the bathroom facilities at Indian bay ????.

    • charging help to maintain facilities or otherwise they will be abused and completely destroyed in quick time

  7. Very good article, I hope the ‘Powers that be’ take heed and do so immediately, so we can enjoy a slice of this lucrative industry before the entire cake is eaten by the other tourism giants mentioned by the writer in her article.

    • Observer I am a defender of my country also but you have to call a spade a spade there’s much room for improvement an if we keep neglecting these little things the boat will go leave us.

  8. We need many, many more “strangers” like you, people born elsewhere who can see what we have to offer to other “strangers” called foreign tourists, on the one hand, and what needs improving, on the other.

    Most people born here who have never travelled can’t see the forest for the trees and simply accept our natural environment and resources as they are.

    Keep up the writing and don’t pay any heed to cretins like Observer who believe that SVG is just fine the way it is.

    • You have really been put in your da*n place by everyone writing in response to your infantile and insecure post.

      You are so very fresh and forward, sir, that you score minus one hundred percent (-100 %), big time, on any scale.

  9. I’m a repeat tourist. I come to St Vincent for 2-3 months every winter 6 years in a row so far. I enjoy hiking and snorkeling, and I like the fact that St Vincent doesn’t get many tourists, but here is my list of suggestions to become more tourist friendly.

    Buses, – you have sardine cans, very cheap, subsidized by the government but very difficult for tourists. There is no info on routes, stops, rates, etc. You have to grow up here to know that. Bus travel from North Leeward or Windward, south, is totally dysfunctional. Even rich tourists can’t afford your cabs, and renting a car is dangerous the way Vincentians drive, which comes back to the bus system. How about a bus route map?

    Nature and hiking trails, – You have lots of forest, and very demanding terrain, but only 2-3 mapped trails that are maintained, with no trail markers. I bought a cutlass the second time I wintered in St Vincent. I have since discovered another dozen trails on the island, beautiful, demanding trails, but they aren’t on any map, anywhere, and they deteriorate fast, grow back in from lack of maintenance. I use my cutlass to trim trails for the next hiker. I got lost on the Cumberland Trail a few years ago, thought I would have to spend the night in the forest

    Nature and snorkeling, – I can really only snorkel in Villa, because you are a country of thieves, and only a towel, t-shirt and flip-flops can be left unattended on the beach, which makes snorkeling anywhere else very difficult. That said, you don’t have a single protected marine reserve, where fishing is strictly prohibited. Villa would be a good place to start. A lot of inshore coral has died from sewage runoff there. You don’t have a single sewage treatment plant on the whole island, even for Kingstown. The damage is very obvious in Indian Bay. Lastly, very strong currents come very close to shore, and change daily. Snorkeling around Young Island I rent a row boat and its owner for safety. Tourist be ware, I guess, but some info before you’re paddling as hard as you can against a strong current would be appreciated.

    Dogs, – I bring Pepper spray for the dogs. They are dangerous. They need to be licensed and controlled. On an island of thieves everyone protects their property with burglar bars and vicious dogs. They aren’t pets. Time to upgrade with home alarm systems, perimeter defense. I can’t walk anywhere at night. I would be attacked by dogs or thieves.

    AirBnb, – It is the future of tourism, not big flashy casino hotels, just ordinary people with a spare room, maybe an extra house that is sitting vacant. The population bubble is retiring. They have a lot of money and a lot of time, and they’re quite fit, not as fit as most Vincentians mind you. I’m 64. I can’t believe how fit the country people are.

    Archeology, – I majored in anthropology in University. Most of your history is pre European, the Petroglypths. I’ve been to about half of the sites. They aren’t marked or maintained, and most are on private land. You have a really rich history. I meet archeologists when I visit your island. They recognize how important your archeology is. Then you have contact with western Europe, and abandoned, escaped black slaves. It’s pretty rich. 23 and me should offer your people a discount in the interest of science. Take a hard look at your DNA.

    Language, – You don’t have one language. You have many, and most of them aren’t English per se. I was going to hike across island once. There are maps of old British roads across the island. I was introduced to a man, a Rasta farmer who knew the way. We talked in a truck for about a half hour, I didn’t understand a single word he said. You have old English words that no longer exist really, like cutlass, and vex. You drop words from a sentence that are critical to the structure. You have your own words, that probably don’t exist anywhere else on the planet. I’m getting better at understanding, each year for six years, but with very little exposure to tourists, you have to appreciate that tourists aren’t going to understand you.

    Weed, – You might as well legalize recreational use. Everybody else is, Canada sometime later this year. Tourists don’t like the idea of being thrown into a foreign jail. Everywhere I go I see people smoking weed. A tourist would be crucified if they were caught. As I understand it guns only came with cocaine, because cocaine is really expensive. You kill a lot of your own with guns. You kill a lot of tourists with guns trying to rob them. Eliminate all guns.

  10. This article is the best one I have read here to date. The writer is very accurate in pointing out the things that could be improved upon in SVG tourism sector. The comments to the article also accurately reflect the general level of critical thinking amongst the population of SVG. Even C. sounds realistic and nuanced here. Maybe it’s an idea to set up Action-committees and Think-tanks to start tackling the problems and providing options for solutions.
    Everything is possible when entrusted to responsible and capable persons. Planning is essential for achieving goals that we set. Things won’t change overnight. A legal apparatus is also necessary to ensure that individuals are held accountable.
    This article is the best opinion I have read here so far in this forum. And I hope that these kinds of articles keep coming and, that people keep paying attention to them.

  11. Sir, what are you implying? ”You kill a lot tourists with guns trying to rob them”. How many have we killed? Can you please elaborate? ”I can’t walk anywhere at night, I would be attacked by dogs or thieves”. Really? Canada has no crime, no issues, totally pristine.

    • You killed a German tourist, on his yacht just a year ago or se. I met a woman at Richmond Vale Academy visiting her son. She was raped in broad daylight on the road walking to Dark View Falls. Canada is very vast, very rich. I’ve met several Vincentians who made their money here. Then they retired in St Vincent. Canada is only pristine because most of it is inhabitable. Where I live the problem is drug addicts as far as petty crime but we also have Mafia. I had a friend in university. His father was an architect who designed shopping malls and brothels for the mafia. Never charged. My town has more people than all of St Vincent. Nothing but cars on all the roads we have. I’d rather spend winter in St Vincent. Spring won’t come until mid June. If I could I would educate, transform your island to the paradise it could be, but that is beyond my reach. Bequia is a preferred tourist destination, more expensive. They complain the thieves come from St Vincent. The tourists there are a bit afraid of St Vincent main island. Nasty people there. I go there because it’s much cheaper than Bequia, and there’s much more to do, but you come with a hard edge, not so friendly to tourists. Especially if you kill them trying to rob them. You need to change your culture. You’re poor, but I see a lot of fancy houses, much better than what I live in in my home town. You need more government income, property taxes, sewage, hydro, and infrastructure taxes. You need to raise the rate of public transit. If you have a three story house, you can afford to pay more taxes. If you travel you can afford to pay twice what you pay now. I don’t imagine I will ever get this conversation with Gonsalves. It’s time for someone new. I hope they are as good as Gonsalves.

  12. With respect to tourism, I always thought that the Courthouse, The Kingstown public library, the Anglican church, the Catholic church, the Methodist church are all landmarks that should be properly maintained. Even the square in front of the Courthouse, which now has that awful looking building on it, should have been maintained. Sadly this has not happened and these beautiful buildings and sites, which stood there for years and are a part of our cultural identity are close to falling down. There are many more historical and cultural sites that are being neglected or poorly kept. These should be proper tourist attractions. Indeed what is the minister of tourism doing for his/her salary?

    • Unfortunately, none of these stack up from a regional let alone international perspective as “landmarks.”

      Most of the tourists we want to attract would have much larger and more elegant churches, court houses, libraries, etc. in their home towns, cities, and countries they could visit, regardless of whether ours were beautifully maintained or not. Same holds for the botantical gardens which could never compare to most botanical gardens elsewhere, even during its heyday.

      Also, except for the courthouse and botanical garden, these are privately owned. The government rightly has no role in maintaining them.

  13. Various media houses across the Caribbean one can easily identified C.Ben, the man behind 72 essays and no headway. What a shame! Could never sway the masses, no time for egoistic individual. His approval rating, 1%. May the good Lord continue to bless SVG.

  14. I prefer you stay out of our politics, I knew you were heading in that direction. Vincentians don’t meddle in Canada’s domestic affairs, so why are you getting involved in ours? Whenever that time comes, we’ll choose the best CEO. Very unfortunate, don’t condone these things. One has to realize SVG consists of 32 islands and Cays, it’s impossible for us to be everywhere. Those issues are being addressed. They’ve put certain measures in place already. One has to be on the alert at all time, be ware of your surroundings etc.

    As a former sailor, there’s a monthly general meeting where the (Captain) would take to the podium and addressed the general assemble. “He said that one has to be on the alert, it’s important to know your surroundings”. If we follow what the Scriptures says, one would realize these are the last days we’re in, and men hearts are desperately wicked. It doesn’t matter where you go, criminals would always seek an easy way out. Canada is no exception.

    • I also prefer to stay out of Canadian politics, but I make a point of voting. I live on the main island 2-3 months a year. I’m a climate refugee. Canadian winters are miserable. Plants don’t grow, animals hibernate. Life takes a vacation mostly. I am able to do so as well. I go to St Vincent in the winter, and I wouldn’t be meddling if I was a tourist. I live on your island 2-3 months of the year, and I know what I like. I like St Vincent, so I can make recommendations. It isn’t meddling per se. It’s love mostly.

      • Pay Observer no heed. Like many of our people, he is both insecure about and ashamed of our many shortcomings which he psychologically sublimates by berating anyone and everyone who would offer the slightest and most constructive criticism of or deeply troubled country and its maladaptive political system.

        He lashes out like many an immature and insecure teenager whose face is full of acne when anyone stares at him too hard or even offers some topical medication to reduce the inflamation.

        Poor, hapless soul.

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