St. Kitts and Nevis are eager to get back to business in Canada, a market the Caribbean islands were making great strides in in 2019 only to be interrupted by the pandemic, but now set to resume thanks to Air Canada flights beginning on Dec. 5, coupled with eased border measures that took effect late last week.
Tourism minister Lindsay Grant told Travel Industry Today (via Zoom) that the St. Kitts Tourism Authority had been part way through a five-year strategic plan to increase in its profile in Canada, a process that was “well on its way” – boosting its arrivals numbers from this country to close to 10,000 – until the global health crisis,
Indeed, such was the success that Air Canada had even planned to add a second weekly flight, says Grant.
Nearing two years later, the islands are still hoping to “move the trajectory upwards” and improving their standing in the Canadian market.
“We see the potential and we’re plugging away at that – so much so that we engaged a Canadian PR firm and we’re putting the emphasis in Canada, because what the Canadians like is what we have to offer,” says Grant.
By which he means “an uncrowded, quintessential Caribbean getaway with a distinct array of activities, astonishing natural beauty and warm, welcoming hospitality,” not to mention rich in food, music, and other cultural attributes.
Or, more specifically, says Grant, “the Caribbean as it used to be – but with all the amenities. Somewhere you can lay back and be enchanted…”
Boasting plenty of sun, sand, and sea – and all that goes along with that – the small islands are not lacking in attractions, including, in St. Kitts, the UNESCO recognized 500-year-old Brimstone Hill Fortress Park, rain-forested Mt. Liamuiga, and the Sugar Train, the Caribbean’s only scenic passenger railway, which recalls the former British island’s history as a top sugar producer.
Less than 10 minutes away by water taxi, sister island Nevis (part of the twin-island federation formally known as St. Christopher and Nevis), is known for its unspoilt coastline, botanic gardens, and historical significance as the birthplace of American founding father, Alexander Hamilton.
Grant says Canadians tend to visit both islands – “two for the price of one” – with Nevis considered the quieter of the two.
And while there is a mix of accommodation options – including the noteworthy Four Seasons Nevis, which has just completed a major renovation, and the Park Hyatt St. Christopher, as well as the Koi Resort St. Kitts (Hilton) and a dual Marriott property – there are many quaint boutique properties that offer a distinct flavour of the islands. That includes the Royal St. Kitts hotel, the former Jack Tar Village that was a favourite of Canadians. And there are no all-inclusives, Grant notes.
Cruising is also important to St. Kitts/Nevis with Grant explaining that many visitors “fall in love with the country” on a shore excursion and then return for a longer stay in the future.
This fall, Seabourn and Celebrity have returned to the island, with the arrival of the latter’s Equinox on Sept. 14 making big waves in the island.
“It reaffirmed our status as a marquee port… and really signals that we are on our way to recovery (from the pandemic) and provides some short-term confidence to the tourism industry and residents,” says Grant
Since 2014 the islands have more than doubled the number of cruise passengers, prompting Grant to note that authorities are cognizant of not succumbing to over-tourism. He notes that the nature of the islands enables visitors to quickly spread out and not overwhelm the port and capital Basseterre.
But whether by sea or air (the latter featuring a $300 p.p. seat sale on Air Canada Rouge flights when booked by Oct. 14), the tourism authority is committed to carrying full on in Canada to increase exposure and “re-introducing” Canadians to St. Kitts this winter, and beyond.
“You’re going to be seeing a lot more of us in Canada,” says Grant.
Travellers 18 and over must be fully vaccinated (under 18 exempted) and have a negative PCR test result produced within 72 hours of travel. Another test is necessary upon arrival at one’s “travel approved” hotel during a 24-hour quarantine period (reduced last week from four days) and upon a negative result from that test, visitors can “fully integrate” into island life.
In August, St. Kitts and Nevis announced that people with mixed vaccine two-dose regimens using World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccines, will be considered fully vaccinated.
Specific to Canadians, the Ministry of Health said those “who received their first dose of an mRNA vaccine followed by a second dose of different brand of mRNA vaccine, as well as those who received a viral vector vaccine such as AstraZeneca/ COVISHIELD followed by an mRNA vaccine, will be considered Fully Vaccinated by The Federation.”
Visitors must also complete the online KNA travel form, which includes proof of vaccination and hotel bookings, for authorization before travel.
Full travel protocols and requirements are outlined HERE.
First published at Travel Industry Today