By Lincoln De Pradine
St George’s, Grenada – Tourism officials in Grenada say they are on pace to surpass last year’s landmark arrival figure of 528,077 visitors. It was the first time that the Caribbean nation, which also comprises Carriacou and Petite Martinique, has had half-a-million tourists visiting its shores.
“On top of the phenomenal growth we experienced last year, we’re ahead of that historical figure by 1 percent so far for the first half of the year,’’ Ria Murray, communications officer with the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA), told The Caribbean Camera in an interview in St George’s.
From January to June 2018, visitors to Grenada numbered 314,916. According to GTA data, Grenada welcomed a total of 318,559 visitors between January to June 2019.
“The stayover market, which represents our most lucrative visits, grew by 3.81 percent, with 82,399 visitors staying in our hotels, guesthouses and villa accommodations,’’ said the GTA. “The U.S. accounts for 45 percent of our market share, followed by the U.K. with 17 percent and the Canadian market with 12 percent.’’
One of the peak periods for visitor arrivals to Grenada is during the months of July and August for Spicemas, the country’s annual carnival celebrations that culminated last week.
“We experienced a bumper carnival last year, 24.9 percent growth over 2017,’’ said Murray.
The GTA, Murray said, had projected an 11 growth in arrival for the July-August period 2019, especially with “Grenada’s music trending and taking off’’ and with the performance of Grenadian artistes at this year’s International Soca Monarch (ISM) championships in Trinidad. The ISM power competition was won by Grenadian Mr Killa.
“People were interested in finding out where does this music come from and wanting to experience it right here in Grenada,’’ Murray said.
A report on the state-run Government Information Service said 27,311 tourists visited Grenada from July 15 to August 13, the final day of Spicemas 2019. However, Murray explained that those were not GTA figures.
She promised that the Tourism Authority’s officially tabulated data will be released before the end of this week. According to Murray, GTA figures will include a breakdown of the type of visitor such as students flying in to the country to attend St George’s University and carnival revelers and spectators from neighbouring Caribbean nations, as well as from North America and Europe.
This year’s Spicemas was themed “Many Events – One Carnival’’.
“There were no major incidents for carnival 2019. It is safe to say that we have had an incent-free Spicemas celebration,’’ Vannie Curwen, a superintendent with the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF), told reporters.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who attended several carnival-related events, commended the RGPF and members of the public for maintaining Grenada’s image as a safe destination.
“Achieving an incident-free carnival speaks volumes about the proactive efforts of the RGPF and the strategy employed over the carnival season to deter crime,’’ said Mitchell, who also is minister of national security. “I personally witnessed the huge crowd on the street Carnival Tuesday and it was quite heartening to see persons enjoying themselves without breaking the law. That level of personal discipline shows that we are maturing as a people and taking individual responsibility for our actions.’’
According to Prime Minister Mitchell, “Grenada has a unique selling point for Spicemas and our tourism product, in general. Grenada is generally regarded as a very safe place and having an incident-free carnival sends the right message that Grenada is the place to be and you can be safe while here.”
Apart from Spicemas, Grenadians living on Carriacou host a separate carnival in the pre-Lenten period, coinciding with similar festivals in other places such Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Brazil.
Photos by Nazim A. Benjamin