Between global-wide issues like the Eurozone crisis and natural disasters like Hurricane Ivan, Grenada’s tourism has had very little opportunity to celebrate. Selling Grenada’s tourism product—its Spice Mas, oildown, Underwater Sculpture Park—was the major reason Randall Dolland, spokesperson for the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association (GHTA), was in Trinidad last week when he did a host of media interviews. Dolland is also the sales and marketing manager for the family-owned Flamboyant Hotel and Villas in St George’s, Grenada. “Tourism in Grenada is depressed right now,” Dolland said, in an interview with the Business Guardian last week Thursday. “Tourism is pretty much the only thing we have to export.
“Government is cash-strapped and unable to fund the board to market us efficiently. Due to lack of funding, the board is unable to fund the association as it should.” Dolland said Grenada’s 1,500-room tourism industry has suffered since the 2008 global financial meltdown. So the GHTA’s 18-member hotels and guesthouses have been offering discounts on such vacation needfuls as accommodation, car rentals and free breakfast, to lure visitors. Grenada is a 30-minute flight from Trinidad. “After 2008, visitor arrivals dropped. It meant that you had to heavily incentivise people to travel: offer packages, discounts, offer more for less revenue. “Customer service is important. You sell experiences, you sell memories. It is important you meet and exceed customers’ experience, and sell your hotel and country, so after they leave, the product you created for them was so good, they will spread the word,” Dolland said.
Six per cent of all Grenada’s visitors are Trinidadians, with the majority of visitors being from the United Kingdom. “Trinidad has always been a big market for the island,” Dolland said. “These markets have been affected by the recession. “It is becoming more of a crisis situation. Tourism is the only thing we have to export, and without that, the economy slows down, it creates a serious effect, it puts more of a strain in the island, and more industries suffer. “Tourism keeps people employed. Hotels purchase stuff from farmers, distributors, and if we do not have heads on beds, then everything is affected,” Dolland said. So, what are some of Grenada’s must-experience tourism products? The Spice Isle boasts of being the “wreck-diving capital” of the Caribbean, with 15 shipwrecks to choose from at varying depths—for novices to technical divers alike—and the Underwater Sculpture Park.
Sixty-five unique sculptures have been created in Molinere Bay, covering an area of 800 square metres [miles?]. It is located two miles north of St Georges on the west coast of the island, within an area designated a National Marine Park. The work of artist Jason deCaires Taylor, the sculptures explore the relationships between art, science and the environment. The park was featured in a special edition National Geographic magazine titled Wonders of the World: Earth’s most awesome places.
Grenada was also the recipient of two 2012 Scuba Diving Magazine Awards—Best Advanced Diving and Best Wreck Diving in the Caribbean/Atlantic. Dolland said even though the economy of Grenada—with its postcard-perfect, aquamarine beaches—is depressed, the vacation site is still one of the safest in the Caribbean. The Web site travel.state.gov describes crime in Grenada as “mainly opportunistic.”
Grenada relies on tourism as its main source of foreign exchange, especially since the construction of an international airport in 1985. Hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Emily (2005) severely damaged the agricultural sector, particularly nutmeg and cocoa cultivation, which had been a key driver of economic growth. Grenada has rebounded from the devastating effects of the hurricanes, but is now saddled with the debt burden from the rebuilding process. Public debt to gross domestic product (GDP) is nearly 110 per cent, leaving the government limited room to engage in public investments and social spending. Strong performances in construction and manufacturing, together with the development of tourism and an offshore financial industry, have also contributed to growth in national output. However, economic growth remained stagnant in 2010-11, after a sizeable contraction in 2009, because of the global economic slowdown’s effects on tourism and remittances. GDP, by sector: services 75.3 per cent; agriculture 9.7 per cent; industry 15 per cent. Labour force, by occupation: services 62 per cent; agriculture 24 per cent; industry 14 per cent
(Central Intelligence Agency/Wikipedia)