ST. VINCENT/GRENADINES...RATING THE AIRLINES...IRELAND BLOG
Had a cup of coffee the other day with Glen Beache, the aptly named (I'm sure he's sick of the joke) minister of tourism for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Nice fellow. Very nice-sounding islands.
"I think we're what people are looking for in the Caribbean," he said. "It's not mass-market. It's the sort of place where you can walk down the main street of the capital (Kingstown) and pick a mango off a tree."
For those of you geographically challenged, St. Vincent and the Grenadines are a string of 32 islands, including Mustique, Bequia and Young Island, that lie west of Barbados and south of St. Lucia.
There's only one luxury resort, a Raffles, but there are plenty of nice places to stay in a country that Beache said is trying hard to remain relatively low-key.
"We've had cruise lines say they want to bring in boats with 2,000 people to our smaller islands. but some of them only have 500 people and we don't want to overwhelm them."
Beache is struggling with what many tourism people battle over; keeping developers and pro-growth people happy without going so overboard that they lose the special feeling that brought people there way in the first place. The way Beache seems to look at it, there are lots of all-inclusive places in St. Lucia and Barbados and Jamaica and such, so his nation needs to remain a distinct alternative.
Beache, who spent a great deal of time in Toronto as a youth and attended Carleton University, said St. Vincent and the Grenadines this year have attracted more Canadians and Italians than last year. So they know the importance of the Canadian marketplace.
The tallest building in his country is five stories, and that's the limit, Beache says.
"There's no McDonald's," he says. "We do have a KFC, however. Caribbean people love chicken. What I'd like is a Lick's Hamburgers (outlet)!"
Folks may recall that the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the first one, was filmed in Beache's country. Tobago Cay played a large role. But Beache says it was a strange experience.
"When the Disney people first spotted the beach, they all couldn't believe it. Four of them literally jumped off the boat and into the water, only to discover they had their blackberries and cell phones in their pockets. The fifth guy stood on the boat and just roared, but I think maybe he just couldn't swim. That's a true story."
On the other hand, Beache says Disney never responded to a request for the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to get a ticket for the premier of the film. When they asked for some mementoes of the filming, he says Disney sent them movie posters. Maybe a dozen of them.
While we're on the topic of the Caribbean, Travelweekly reports that first-quarter tourist arrivals in Cancun grew 4.7 per cent, a pretty impressive stat. Cuba's arrivals were up 1.9 per cent, while Jamaica climbed just a bit; 0.2 per cent.
But they said things weren't as sweet in other parts of the Caribbean. They quoted the Caribbean Tourist Organization as saying Antigua, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands suffered double-digit declines in the winter season, while Barbados, Belize and St. Lucia had single-digit drops, as did the Dominican Republic.
I've not spent as much time in the Caribbean as I should, but I'll be in St. Lucia and Barbados over the next few days to gather stuff for future stories. I'll plan on blogging, of course, and will file a few pics when I can.
PRETZELS? WE DON"T NEED NO STINKING PRETZELS
I'm mixing up Seinfeld and Blazing Saddles/Treasure of the Sierra Madre with that headline, but what the heck.
It seems the folks at the website seatguru.com surveyed some 1,600 travellers to find out what we think about airline food and service.
Forty per cent of respondents said the on-board amenity they value most is a full meal, and amen to that. They cited American, United and US Airways as having the worst food and Continental as having good chow, behind Singapore Airlines (no surprise given their reputation) and British Airways.
The top three airlines cited for courteous flight attendants were Singapore, British and Southwest.
I didn't spot any Canadian content in any of the reports I read about the study. Sorry, folks.
Star Movies Editor Linda Barnard continues her fine blogging from Ireland. Check out her latest hiking exploits and the rest of her travels - so far, and stay tuned for more in the next coming days. We hope.
HOTEL/BIKE DEAL IN GUELPH
The Delta Guelph Hotel and Conference Centre is offering bike rentals as a "sustainable alternative" to exploring the city. Until the end of October, guests can check out various types of bikes on hourly, half-day or full-day rentals.
Packages for an overnight stay start at $140, including the room, a full-day bike rental and breakfast for two adults and two kids.
For details, visit www.deltaguelph.com