By Alexander Britell
Luxe private resorts. Sparkling, untouched beaches. Volcanoes. Spectacular sailing.
And you haven’t heard of it?
For years, St Vincent and the Grenadines has been something of a secret corner of the Caribbean, a rarefied section of the region for travelers with the intrepidity and the means to reach a destination that many ways hidden away from the travel radar.
But that is changing.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is seeing a very strong improvement in visitor arrivals in 2019, according to new data released by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority.
Air arrivals for the first five months of 2019 grew by 7.1 percent, with a total of 36,757 in the period, according to the organization, one of the faster growth rates in the Caribbean.
That’s very positive news for a destination that has long been something of a closely-guarded secret in the Caribbean, due to its decades-long lack of an international airport.
In 2017, that changed, however, with the modern new Argyle International Airport, which means St Vincent is now accessible via nonstop flights from the United States and Canada.
The growth has come in large part thanks to the opening of the destination’s new Argyle International Airport, which has been seeing a steady increase in new airlift from carriers like American Airlines and Air Canada. (The entry of the Mandarin Oriental brand to the destination didn’t hurt, either).
The Canadian market was responsible for the most growth, with a 16.9 percent increase in stayover visits from Canada; the US market grew by 11.4 percent.
St Vincent’s growth should increase further in December, when American Airlines is planning to launch a second weekly flight to St Vincent on Wednesdays, complementing existing Saturday service.
That’s a very strong endorsement from American, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more carriers follow suit.
It’s all adding up to a higher profile for the archipelago in the southern Caribbean filled with a diverse mix of destinations from funky, charming Bequia to a host of private resorts like Petit St Vincent, Palm Island and Canouan (the latter is home to the aforementioned Mandarin Oriental, the first-ever MO in the Caribbean).
St Vincent’s stayover growth was accompanied by 7 percent growth in cruise arrivals, with a total of 158,233 cruise passengers visiting St Vincent and the Grenadines in the same period.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has long been a top yachting destination in the Caribbean, and that sector also reported strong growth of 7.6 percent, with a total of 37,926 yacht visitors in the first five months of 2019.
And very quietly, St Vincent and the Grenadines is becoming a burgeoning Caribbean hotspot.