We might all be marooned in our houses, but what about those stuck on actual desert islands? Here, we take a look at coronavirus in the Caribbean, diving into its impact and thinking about what travel here might look like for the rest of this year and into 2021. In the meantime, evocative virtual campaigns are emanating from the region – inspiring content that will bring tropical vibes to your quarantine barbecue and have you gagging to visit. We talked to Sharon at the Grenada Tourism Authority, who helped us to scratch beneath the surface to start understanding what coronavirus means for the Caribbean.
Grenada is the laid-back tropical island of the popular imagination. Sandy coves and azure seas flank its mountainous, lush interior: hiking, diving and snorkeling are all popular, here – as are chocolate, nutmeg and rum. Though commercial flights are currently suspended to Grenada – and its smaller sister islands, Carriacou and Petite Martinique – the island’s vibrant virtual campaign (#GrenadaDreaming) is enough to get armchair travellers hooked. Promoting positive news, local playlists on Spotify and a whole host of virtual events, you’ll be channelling the good life in no time.
We chatted with Sharon Bernstein, UK Director of the Grenada Tourism Authority, and asked her to give us some more background on the campaign and her projections for Grenada travel going forwards.
Q: Could you tell me a bit more about the #GrenadaDreaming social media campaign? What are the different elements, and what is its overall aim?
A: #GrenadaDreaming is inviting people across the world to share their own happy memories and experiences of Grenada on social media. It goes beyond that though, as the content showcases the culture, cuisine and character of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique rather than simply posting pretty photos. We’re enjoying cocktail making, rum tasting, cooking and have an entire month of interactive activity planned for our virtual Chocolate Fest, replacing the seventh annual Grenada Chocolate Fest which has been postponed. It’s about empathy, enthusiasm and energy.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about how you’re using Spotify lists to evoke a Caribbean ambience?
A: One of the UK team, Lisa Braithwaite, whose family hails from Carriacou, identified the evocative power of music. Lisa’s idea has gone global and the #GrenadaDreaming Spotify lists are growing in number and popularity. Our first list includes music with a Soca vibe, the music you’ll hear in rum shops and bars on the islands, and is called “Limin” – a Grenadian term for hanging out with friends or just chilling out by yourself. The lists also include contemporary artistes such as Sabrina Francis, whose “This is Home” was written for Grenada Tourism Authority, and Shortpree, whose music is a mixture of Soca, Reggae and Dancehall. The vibe a true reflection of the depth and breadth of Grenadian music and we’ll be creating more in coming months.
Q: You talk about some positive news stories coming from the islands, from rum distilleries producing hand sanitizer to hotels hosting key workers and the national “Salute By Sound” (a bit like the UK’s “clap for the NHS”. Could you tell us a bit more about this?
A: Grenada has three rum distilleries in addition to a new gin and vodka distillery. As soon as the need for hand sanitizer arose, three of the distillers switched production to meet demand. Grenada Distilleries, makers of Clarke’s Court rums, donated to senior citizens, children’s homes, the Bus Association and the Royal Grenada Police Force Traffic department, while Westerhall Estate, who have been making rum since 1766, donated 14,000 hand sanitizers to medical facilities, police stations and some assisted-living homes. Blue Light Gin Distillery created hand sanitizer infused with island-grown aloe vera and donated this to homes for the elderly. Several of the distillers are considering continuing production longer term alongside their spirit ranges.
Salute to Sound on 24 April 2020, meanwhile, was organized jointly by Grenada Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism, as a five-minute recognition of front line and essential workers. The people of Grenada came out of their homes clapping, blowing horns, banging pots and playing musical instruments to show their respect and gratitude in what was an emotional recognition of national unity.
Q: As countries around the world prepare to lift their lockdowns, tourist ministers have suggested visitors could come back under a raft of new rules to protect against Covid-19. What differences do you think we might see on Grenada? How will social distancing affect tourists on the islands?
A: Standards on the islands are already very high, both within the tourism sector and more generally. There is work underway in Grenada and across the Caribbean to implement additional hygiene protocols and social distancing measures, so that when we can welcome visitors back, we can do so safely. The Ministry of Tourism is working closely with tourism businesses including the airport and ports to ensure visitors can come – with confidence – as soon as the temporary restrictions are lifted.
Q: What are your predictions for the tourist industry on the islands for the rest of the year and into 2021?
A: The Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell, has made it clear that all decisions will prioritize the health and wellbeing of the 110,000 people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, whilst significant government support is being offered to the tourism sector and those who work in it. We do expect to see visitors come back this year and when they arrive, they will receive a traditionally warm and friendly Pure Grenada welcome.
Q: It looks likely that for at least the rest of the year travellers will be tentative about going on big international trips. Do you think the islands will see a drop in European/US travellers? Could they target visitors closer to home?
A: Grenada was riding high as a sustainable, experience-rich destination, attracting record numbers of visitors and several new hotel openings: Royalton Grenada Resort opened this spring, Kimpton Kawana Bay is approaching completion, and in 2022 Grenada will be home to the first Six Senses resort in the Caribbean. No effort is being spared to protect the tourism industry so it can return, stronger than ever, and whilst it may be that initially visitors come from other Caribbean islands and the eastern seaboard of the USA, we’re confident the allure of the islands will bring back British and European travellers. We believe there will be considerable numbers of UK travellers from within the Grenadian diaspora keen to visit friends and relatives, and also those who know and love Grenada who simply cannot wait to go back.
Q: What lessons would you most like to see ordinary people and travellers taking with them once the pandemic has passed?
A: That tourism is so much more than simply travelling: it allows us to connect with people and their place in the world, sharing their passions and honouring the precious time spent together. We have an opportunity to meet our commitment to create a sustainable – both environmentally and economically – industry which, far from being isolated, sits at the very heart of the community it serves.
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Top image: Bathway Beach © Grenada Tourism Authority
Helen worked as a Senior Travel Editor at Rough Guides and Insight Guides, based in the London office. Among her favourite projects to work on are inspirational guides like