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Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Sep 23, 2019
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Grenada: It’s the talk of the town

Grenada Market Square. Photos courtesy/ GRENADA TOURISM AUTHORITY

BOB MOWAT

There’s lots of competition out there, isn’t there?

Be it from other destinations, tour operators, hotels, you name it, everyone is looking to get travel agents to sell their products and services.

View of Grand Anse Beach

And, while that’s pretty much always been the case, in a world where information flows as rapidly as the waters cascading over Niagara Falls, it has become increasingly tough for smaller destinations to get their message heard.

Yet talking to the Grenada Tourism Authority’s marketing manager, Francine Stewart and its director of sales, Canada, Sekou Stroude, it seems that hard work and persistence are paying off, and travel agents here are finding that Grenada makes the perfect vacation destination for their clients.

In fact, Stroude told Canadian Travel Press in a recent interview: “In the Canadian market, we have really, really seen an uptick over 2018 to 2019. We had an increase of 19.2% over the previous year,” and that was the highest increase in all of Grenada’s major markets.

Stewart and Stroude

As for why the success here, Stroude said that it “can be attributed a lot to the work that Grenada Tourism has been doing in the [Canadian] market itself.”

“People have been talking about us a lot, and we have really been doing a lot to get the word out, including our travel agent specialist program, which we launched in November 2017.”

Since its launch, Grenada’s agency specialist appears to have caught the attention of Canadian agents.

He explains that “because we are just one destination going to so many travel agents and competing with so many other destinations, it’s actually getting the word out about Grenada and the benefits that the specialist program actually gives the different travel agents to help you sell the destination.”

And he continues: “We just keep on repeating it to the trade that we do have a Grenada specialist program, so please become a specialist; once you become a specialist, please log your bookings in because that’s the way you can get lots of rewards.”

One of those rewards is an upcoming fam for agents that have qualified through the specialist program; and it’s heading to the island on Sept. 23, continuing to Sept. 28, and which will see participating agents immersed in Grenada’s culture, inspect the island’s varied hotel and accommodation options, enjoy tours of the island, and lots more.

The GTA’s hard work is set to continue this fall as Stroude says the office here is gearing up for tour operator product launches in September, observing: “We are just very interested in getting the word out there about what a beautiful and safe destination Grenada is.”

So what makes it different?

Well, explains, the GTA’s marketing manager, Francine Stewart, “we still consider ourselves an undiscovered gem.”

She noted that the popularity of “bucket list” travel – although she’s quick to make clear that Grenada doesn’t want to just be a “bucket list” destination – has certainly given Grenada a certain cache, and along with Carriacou and Petite Martinique which are part of the island group, the three islands offer travellers a different experience.

Underwater Sculpture Park Ring of Children

Stewart also reinforces Sekou’s earlier point, telling CTP that: “Safety is one of our big USPs [unique selling points], and we push that a lot and our Small Island, But Big Vibes experiences that we can offer to our agents and their clients is what is setting us apart from the other destinations [in the Caribbean].”

The GTA’s marketing manager also points out that Canadians are becoming aware of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, discovering that they are untouched and that they offer “not just the beaches and the waterfalls, but our people are our second highest USP – visitors talk about how happy Grenadians are, how friendly they are, how outgoing we are – and that makes people want to keep coming back and coming back and coming back.”

Stewart also pointed to Grenada’s “unique culture,” the variety of foods that it offers and the fact that “we’re a mini-melting pot with all the diversity that we offer.”

Why sell it?

As for why Canadian agents should sell Grenada to their clients, Stroude told CTP that there are quite a few reasons.

“Grenada is one of those small islands where you don’t really have to look over your shoulders when they send clients to the destination,” he said. “One thing I know about agents is they don’t want to send clients anywhere where there might be a safety risk, and Grenada is really small – only 110,000 people – and because of that, everyone is like family. We are a community-oriented culture and we treat our guests [visitors] the same.”

Stroude also points out that “Grenada is below the hurricane belt, so it has year-round good weather. We do have the rainy season like everywhere else in the Caribbean, but it might rain for half an hour and then the sun will come back out and you can go ahead with the rest of your day.”

“And, of course, we are the Spice Island,” Stroude told CTP, “The Spice of the Caribbean, so whenever I speak of our destination, I tell agents that as soon as their clients exit the plane, they will get the aroma of the spices in the air. So Grenada’s an island that doesn’t only look nice, it smells nice. And the food is excellent, because we have so many different spices which we infuse in our local cuisine, making it really, really good – so that’s one of the biggest things I would tell agents – to sell Grenada because our food is excellent, our destination itself is below the hurricane belt geographically and we do have a chocolate festival on the island.”

Sweet and Spicy

In fact, not only does it have a chocolate festival, it has five – yes, five – chocolate factories which is pretty amazing when you consider that Grenada is only 123 square miles, 133 square miles when you include Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Nutmeg, Mace and Spice

“One of our main export products is the cocoa, which is the raw material for making the chocolate, which we export mainly to Europe,” Stroude explained. “Mott Green who came up with the idea of actually keeping some of that cocoa and having chocolate produced in Grenada, [at a place] called the Grenada Chocolate Factory.”

The success of the first factory led to the opening of four more, and today, those operations make between 10 to 15 different flavours of chocolate – like nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut and others.

With five chocolate factories and all that chocolate being produced, it seemed like a good reason for a celebration, so the island launched a spring chocolate festival.

In 2020, it will take place from May 1 to May 6, and participants will be able to eat it, drink it, bathe in it and generally, indulge in it.

Stewart also points out that along with the annual Chocolate Festival, visitors can participate in Tree to Bar tours – that’s chocolate bar, by the way – where they’ll head out to one of the cocoa farms to see how the cocoa is planted and grown and follow the process through to the end.

Summer’s not over

And for those agents who have clients bemoaning the fact that Canada’s summer is coming to an end, well, Next Stop, Grenada, the tourist board’s summer campaign continues to run until the end of October.

Stewart told CTP that the May to October promotion is in its second year, explaining that: “Pretty much what we did is we looked at the winter – winter is usually good and some of the summer is usually good – and we wanted to promote our summer period, as May to October, as a long off-season, and the idea was to reduce seasonality for the destination.”

She continued: “So we decided, let’s come up with a campaign that can say if you didn’t get a chance to come during the winter, you can come during the summer for almost half the price, because during the off-season, the prices are typically lower.”

The tourist board went out to all of its partners and stakeholders, and in 2019, “we added a value on to it and we gave out a summer campaign card – a savings card – that’s also becomes a collectible, so if you come back next year, you get a different one. It’s valid when you present the card at any participating restaurant, attraction, tour operator, and you get a particular discount – whatever it is that they offer.”

Visitors arriving at the airport receive the savings card, as well as from the hotel they’re staying at, and Stewart told CTP that: “We got really good feedback, and it has been working and it has been helping us push the summer, May to October, so we’ll keep using it.”

Lots going on

Ask Stewart and Stroude about new developments in Grenada and their eyes light up, because there’s a lot happening in the destination.

In December of 2019, the Silver Sands Grenada opened on Grand Anse Beach and features seven, luxury villas and 47 rooms.

The Kimpton Kawana Bay is set to open in 2020, with a first phase of 100 rooms, followed by a second phase of 120 rooms.

The Royalton is scheduled to open in March 2020. The property was previously the Rex and it was then bought in November 2018 by Blue Diamond Resorts and became a Starfish, and was then closed in May of this year as it prepares to become a Royalton.

And recently, Six Senses has also announced plans to open a 100-room property in Grenada.

Currently, the island has around 2,100 rooms – that includes everything on all three islands – and by the time all of the new developments are online, its room inventory will be a little over 2,500.

“We want more, but not too many more,” Stewart said. “So, it will be a little more than [2,500], but we’re managing it very carefully though, but to be able to get the airlift, [you need a certain number of rooms] and we need the airlift.”

Out of Canada, right now, Air Canada flies in twice a week during the summer and fall and increases that service to three times a week in the winter. Sunwing also offered service to Grenada last winter and Stewart expects it will be returning for the 2019-2020 winter season.

“One of the goals of the Grenada Tourist Authority (GTA) is to reduce seasonality in all aspects,” Stewart told CTP. “So, we’re saying to airlines, the trade is not going to remember Grenada has this, Barbados has this – we need consistency. And we worked really hard on all aspects, with finances and everything, to convince Air Canada that we need year-round flights.”

And she continued: “So now the goal would be to increase frequency. Once we get more hotel rooms, we can hopefully increase frequency and then really become, you know, consistent with the frequency.”

Stewart said that the tourist board is “pushing” daily service, revealing that “we’ve been discussing [service from] Montreal. We’ve been doing a lot of work [on that]. Sekou [Stroude] has been going to Montreal and working with the trade there. We did a fam in June of this year. We brought down six agents from Montreal, and we gave them a full experience as to what their clients can experience.”

Final thoughts

And speaking of experiences, Stroude is quick to point out that Grenada is an excellent dive destination, as well as being the home of the world’s first underwater sculpture park.

The sculpture park features more than 100 individual sculptures, and visitors can snorkel or scuba dive to see them, and by all accounts, they are quite remarkable.

Besides the underwater sculptures, Grenada has the Caribbean’s largest wreck dive – Bianca C, an old Italian cruise liner that sunk off the coast of Grenada in the early1960s. And while that wreck site is for advanced divers, Stroude said that Grenada has over 50 dive sites, with other wreck sites that can accommodate all different levels of divers.

As for Grenada’s message to Canadian agents, Stewart told CTP that it’s pretty simple: sell your clients on a visit to Pure Grenada.

For more, go to www.puregrenada.com.

 

 

 

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