Tourism Minister Cecil “Ces” McKie says he recently held discussions with his Guyanese counterpart, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, in twining the tourism product in both countries.
On a stop-over in New York over the last weekend, after attending a major Spain-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) seminar in Madrid, McKie told Caribbean Life, in an exclusive interview, that he held wide-ranging talks with Ali surrounding the marketing of both countries as a common tourism package.
“We also looked at several investment opportunities with Guyana,” said McKie, disclosing that Guyana is assisting the nation in getting the South American Airline, COPA, to travel to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on completion of the Argyle International Airport.
He further reiterated previous statements that the Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves administration is holding talks with other international airlines “to come directly to St. Vincent and the Grenadines” when the airport becomes fully operational.
McKie said he met with Ali on the margins of last week’s Spain-CARICOM seminar, which was attended by a number of regional tourism ministers and representatives.
A Guyanese tourism statement said while St. Vincent and the Grenadines is known for its “wonderful beaches, sunshine, waters,” Guyana is a “fantastic destination for Eco (ecology) and Nature tourist and lovers.”
“Both ministers believe that combining the two products would make both destinations more competitive and appealing for the international market,” the statement said.
“Both countries are working on improving their international airports. Whilst Guyana is implementing an absolutely essential upgrade of its facilities, St. Vincent [and the Grenadines] is similarly completing a new international airport,” it added.
“Both ministers spoke of the immense potential these facilities will fulfill for the two countries,” it continued.
McKie said regional ministers and tourism officials were able to get a “first-hand look” at Spain’s tourism product by visiting museums and other sites, and by looking at “areas on how to strategize.”
“Spain and CARICOM have a very good working relationship,” he said. “We’re looking to strengthen our partnership with Spain – the whole question of connectivity; the question of airlines; the use of technology; the various types of tourism they have to utilize (heritage, the use of movies). They were able to use these types of activities to advance the tourism product.”
Prior to traveling to Spain, McKie, along with Glen Beache, chief executive officer of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority, attended the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) annual Tourism Week in New York.
The tourism minister, who attended the Week for the third time, described it as “very, very successful,” adding that he was also “very pleased.”
He noted the participation of Vincentian-born, Tribeca chef Kamal Rose, who recently competed against Bobby Flay on the Food Network
“He was very, very impacting – both with the cocktail mix (and his tasty delights),” said McKie of Rose, who was among the featured chefs at the CTO’s Rum & Rhythm event in midtown Manhattan.
“They had to roll up their sleeves and work, because the demand was so great,” added McKie, stating that the event was “great promotion” for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Proceeds from the Rum & Rhythm festival go towards the CTO Foundation Fund to provide scholarships to Caribbean nationals, including Vincentians, wishing to pursue studies in the tourism field.
McKie also pointed to the winning of two CTO awards by travel journalists who had covered the country.
Caribbean Journal’s Alexander Britell won the “Virtual Visitor Award – Best Online Feature” award for “In Downtown Kingstown, Finding the Spirit of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”.
Tonya & Ian Fitzpatrick, of World Footprints Media, also captured the coveted “Golden Mic – Best Broadcast Feature” award on Palm Island and the Tobago Cays.
CTO secretary general, Barbadian Hugh Riley, who presented the awards, acknowledged the important role of the media in driving Caribbean tourism.
“The value of the media coverage alone exceeds the combined marketing budgets of our members,” he said. “What is even more invaluable is the quality of the work that these journalists continue to produce, which help to shape the Caribbean brand as a premier travel destination.”
McKie said it was important to “bring the media together to hear the voice of the region.”