Above: Gosier, Guadeloupe (All photos by CJ)
By Alexander Britell
Despite its proximity to the United States, the French department of Guadeloupe remains under the radar for most American travelers. That’s starting to change, however. In November, Guadeloupe opened a tourist office in Manhattan. But more importantly, in April, the first-ever direct flight from the US will come to Guadeloupe from Miami on American Airlines. And Guadeloupe has been receiving greater international attention as the filming location for the fictional island of Saint-Marie on the hit BBC mystery show “Death in Paradise,” which is now airing in the US as well. Now, Guadeloupe’s tourist board is making what it says is a concerted effort to draw visitors from the US, branding Guadeloupe as the “Guadeloupe Islands,” as it is actually a five-island archipelago. To learn more, Caribbean Journal talked to Sandra Venite, who is leading Guadeloupe’s US push, at the Caribbean Travel Marketplace Conference on Paradise Island.
Where do you see the Guadeloupe tourism market right now?
We just opened a tourist office for the US market on Nov. 1. So it’s pretty fresh. We’ve been open for two months, so I’m the US representative, and I’ll be representing the Islands of Guadeloupe. We have developed a totally new development strategy for the US market. So the great news is that we have the direct flight from the US to Guadeloupe, so that is going to be an easy, breezy connection from all over the US.
What kind of impact will that flight have?
We have tourists coming from the US, but the main obstacle was that it was difficult to get to the islands. So this is really going ot position the Guadeloupe Islands as a new destination, with eco-tourism, authenticity, culture, and as a warm destination all-year round.
What is your strategy to grow the US market for the next couple of years?
We hope to double the number of tourists coming from the US. So we’re implementing a lot — investing a lot in marketing campaigns, being present at trade shows, so we can educate people, because they don’t know the Islands of Guadeloupe. This is our hope — to increase the awareness of the islands. We did surveys and found that people were confusing Guadeloupe with [Guadalupe] Mexico. So that’s why we came in with the Guadelopue Islands to really focus on this as islands. So we’re five islands, one paradise, with culture, events, food and packages for the tour operators. We really want to adapt to the American market. We are working really hard.
Above: Guadeloupe Assistant of Promotion Luigy Ssosse and Sandra Venite, Trade and Marketing Coordinator (CJ Photo)
Could that fact that Guadeloupe is under the radar turn out to be an asset?
I think yes. I think we want it to be the new destination that the press is buzzing about. It’s kind of a confidential destination, so we want to increase that awareness.
How is the hotel stock in Guadeloupe?
70 percent of the hotel industry has been renovated. So we really did a lot of improvement in terms of labeling, increasing the service, renovating the hotels. So we are pretty good right now; we have great tools ot work with.
But the US will be your main focus.
Right now, 80 percent of tourists to Guadeloupe come from France. So that’s market number one. If you want to improve the value of the destination, you need to diversify — so that’s the focus.
The mystery drama “Death in Paradise” has been very popular in Britain and is now airing in the US — have you seen any impact from that show?
Actually, I’m going to start doing a mini-campaign about this on the Web site, and on our Facebook page, so I can see what’s gonna be the feedback — but it’s going ot help a lot.