Minister of Tourism Alexandra Otway-Noel talks to Sydney PauldenDid you feel a surge of love on St Valentine’s Day, February 14? They did on the Caribbean island of Grenada, because that was the day they chose to launch a new initiative under the banner of ‘Pure Grenada’. It is a whole new approach to raising the love felt for Grenada around the globe.
And who better to explain it all than the Honourable Alexandra Otway-Noel, the island’s Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation & Culture, a post she has held since her party took office one year ago.
‘Tourism is the biggest single contributor to the country’s GDP, but’, Alexandra emphasises, ‘when you come to Grenada you are not a tourist. You are a guest.’
The islanders love to meet new people and are keen to ensure that every one leaves with a desire to return.’
‘And’, the Minister affirms again, ‘we also want to be sure that when you do return you find that nothing has changed, that everything is still as naturally beautiful as before’. It is no surprise, therefore, that Sustainability and Regeneration are key words in the new drive to put Grenada more visibly on the world map.
‘We are, therefore’, the Minister goes on, ‘aiming at quality not quantity’.
This is why MICE business is an important target market. A conference delegate or an incentive award winner has more disposable funds than the average holidaymaker and is calculated to spend nearly three times more per day. With more corporate guests, the island can generate more revenue without putting strain on its infrastructure, its culture and its flora and fauna.
But this brings Alexandra to another important point. She wants to be sure that I don’t think she is being elitist.
‘We welcome all levels of society, so long as they are people who respect and cherish the nature and the heritage of Grenada. We have been able to satisfy the requirements of many conferences where delegates have been looking for every level of accommodation, from 5-star to b&b.’
With a population of only 109,000, Grenada is still able to offer as many as 1,500 guestrooms. It is not looking for massive conventions, but can provide excellent facilities for smaller meetings. It is an ideal destination for meetings with a leisure programme – or for incentives with some business meetings. The island receives good numbers of visitors for Carnival in August and during school holidays, but corporate business in the months of May to June or September to November nicely extend the seasons.
Grenada is famed as the Spice Island because of its production of nutmegs and mace and its lush agriculture. ‘Everything can be grown with ease’, comments Alexandra. Not only its land, but its surrounding waters are rich, providing abundant, tasty fish and lobsters.
‘We have a very literate population’, says the Minister, ‘and we can rely on them to offer excellent service to our guests. It is up to us, at the Grenada Tourism Authority, to grow this sector and give our population the opportunity to show what they can do. As much as 80 per cent of the businesses supplying tourism with its needs are owned locally, so an increase in tourism very definitely benefits the population.
‘Corporate groups can enjoy the finest sailing in the Caribbean. We have some of the very best waters for scuba diving and the world famous Underwater Sculpture Park. We have fascinating nature trails. And bear in mind that as the whole country measures only 21 miles by 14 miles, it is very easy to incorporate all of these activities into a programme to suit everyone in a group’.
Wearing her Civil Aviation hat, the Minister underlines the good connections that make it possible for groups and individual delegates to fly into the island from all parts of the world.
‘Miami is a very convenient hub for so many connections. Grenada is served direct by airlines such as BA, Virgin, American Airlines, Air Canada and others and we are on the verge of bringing in another important carrier from mainland Europe’.