Let me be clear. I am not an investigative reporter and have no aspiration to become one. I had the pleasure of indulging myself in a seven-day cruise around the southern Caribbean recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. When my wife and I signed on to this trip, I must admit I was a little skeptical. But then I thought it would be nice to see how much things have changed in forty years. As much as I tried not to indulge in this comparison, I could not help myself. So what I tried to do instead was to take a fresh look at each Island as we try to develop this new and elusive economic tourism sector.
Well, we in SVG still have a long way to go. Comparatively, our entry is somewhat uninviting; the more tourism-centric Island has several photo opportunities immediately as you disembark. Our port is unappealing. So much so the ship photographer did not come off the ship to create that memorable SVG moment. Suggestion: We can immediately create a beautiful waterfall feature on the eastern wall as we transition from the landscape into the building. Another idea would be to create a median on the pier to display some of the beautiful Vincy scenes we might want to entice our visitors to explore, while doubling as a photo opportunity for our visitors.
As an aside, what’s with our ongoing obsession with “three for ten’? Could someone please tell me why the courtyard at the cruise ship berth is converted into a bar selling any combination of beer in a cluster of three for ten dollars? Is that all we have to offer? Just so that you know, SVG is the only place this much alcohol was immediately available to our visitors.
In keeping with my attempt not to be just critical of everything, SVG, the grassy area with the little shops, is a gem that must be maintained and improved upon as we mature. No other island we visited offered that much green space at the port. For me, that’s a keeper. We must be different.
The people I interacted with on the ship were impressed with the planned trips. The waterfalls seem to be a big hit with most people. Some were particularly impressed with the boat rides to the Leeward coast. A suggestion I heard was to work on recreating the “Pirate of the Caribbean” movie set. Another Central point of discussion among many of our visitors is we all offer a botanical garden. I noticed that the grass lawns in the Dominica garden were equipped with an irrigation system (under repair). A landscape architect and botanist on the trip suggested we invest in an irrigation system to show off the beauty of our impressive garden. He was impressed and noted it as one of the best he had ever visited—something we should consider, in my opinion. By the way, I ran into a regular visitor (fourth trip) who could not help but notice and was complimentary of the authorities on the cleanup effort in Kingstown. Now, this was a surprise to me. He was so comfortable with our local minibus system that he took his family to the bus stop on his private tour.
Interestingly, the residents I interacted with on every Island visited except for Dominica seem concerned about increased criminal activity. Some were very open about areas we should avoid. They were some people genuinely worried for our safety. Dominica was the exception; everyone was proud of the low crime rate, especially crime against tourists. As a side note, for a population of about seventy-five thousand, they have about 550 police. Compare those numbers to our police department, and you will see why I think our approach to policing in SVG is off base.
After a drive through the countryside in both Dominica and Grenada, I couldn’t help but notice how far behind we have fallen in agriculture diversification.
In general, SVG will never become a significant competitor to Barbados in the tourism business in the southern Caribbean. We are in the middle of the pack with all the other islands. We must find something quickly to distinguish ourselves from the other islands. If we do, we can quickly double the number of ships visiting our port and extend our “tourist season”. One option would be to form a strategic alliance with Barbados to offer the best of the two unique views of the Caribbean, coral base and volcanic base islands.