Mega yachts in secluded ports, 5 Diamond properties, world class boutique hotels, award winning beaches, private islands, waterfalls, rain forests filled with exotic spice trees, thriving agriculture, and unspoilt dive sites– Grenada fully delivers on its reputation as the luxury destination in the Caribbean.
Home to some of the top-rated and most luxurious hotels in the world, the island received an added boost just this July when Grenada’s Grand Anse Beach was rated the best beach in the world by the internationally recognized Condé Nast Traveller UK magazine.
Grenada’s tourism development is being fostered by a plan of careful expansion on the part of a government that recognizes the value of growing while protecting its natural environment. In an exclusive interview with TMI, Nicholas Steele, Grenada’s Minister of Health, Social Security & International Business, discusses the opportunities that exist for further development, including for travel retail.
Located in the eastern Caribbean just south of Barbados, Grenada is best known as the “Spice Island of the Caribbean” for its cinnamon and nutmeg production, but the lush destination also offers 40 white sand beaches, 15 waterfalls, 4 chocolate factories, 3 rum distilleries and more than 30 dive sites, including the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean ‘Bianca C’ and the world’s first underwater Sculpture Park.
The country enjoyed double-digit growth and a landmark total visitor arrival of 528,077 in 2018, a trend that inched up a further +1% in the first six months of this year, reports the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA). The destination welcomed a total of 318,559 visitors January to June 2019 compared to 314,916 for the same period in 2018.
The lucrative stayover market grew by 3.81% to 82,399 visitors staying in hotels, guesthouses and villas. The average length of stay of these visitors from the main source markets is 8.5 days. The US accounts for 45% of the market share, followed by the UK with 17%.
Several important new properties came online this year or are under development, and with additional airlift scheduled, will stimulate arrivals further by year’s end.
Grenada’s upscale hotel portfolio includes the $125 million Silver Sands that opened last December, where villas can go for as much as $20,000 a night; the all-inclusive Spice Island Beach Resort, the only independently and family-owned 5 diamond rating property (3 years in a row), a rating that has only been given to six other resorts in the Caribbean and 121 hotels worldwide in 2019; the Kimpton Kawana Bay Grenada Resort – only the second Kimpton in the Caribbean- scheduled to open in 2020; Calivigny Island, a luxury private island and one of the most expensive resorts in the world, which is owned by French billionaire Georges Cohen; along with such top resorts as Levera Beach Resort, located on Grenada’s relatively undeveloped northeast coast, Calabash, Laluna, Mount Cinnamon and Sandals flagship luxe all inclusive.
“This journey started with us identifying our tourism products by looking at our existing hotels and looking at our under-utilized properties and trying to match them,” said Minister Steele.
“We were lucky to an extent – but deliberate on the other hand — in looking for a certain type of investor. Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris built the $125 million Silversands — the first guest checked in last December 1 — and he has just acquired Mount Cinnamon. These two properties will anchor Grand Anse Beach, which the world has now recognized as one of the best beaches in the world. Grenada is a global treasure and we have to recognize how best to utilize this treasure.
“Our goal is to bring in other investors who see the beauty of the beaches, the beauty of the island, the potential of the island and buy into our ‘Pure Grenada’ ideal.
“We recognize that we have to develop further in order to progress but we have to be sure that the development does not spoil the natural beauty.”
Steele points out a number of other high end developments are now underway, all of which meet these criteria.
“On Grand Anse Beach we have Kawana Bay, which is a Kimpton Hotel; the Silversands investor will also be building another hotel on Grand Anse beach — all within keeping with the beauty of this beach. We have also since attracted Range Development, who will be starting construction in the La Sagesse area in St David’s on a master planned development.”
Steele says that in the last two years Grenada has increased the hotel inventory by about 20%, starting from a base of only 1,500 rooms.
“The increase began with the opening of the luxury Sandals LaSource Grenada in 2017, which added 200 rooms. We also have the Rex Grenadian which is closed now for refurbishment and will be reopened as all-inclusive Royalton Resort in December and add another 60 rooms for a total of 300. The investor in this project is Stephen Hunter, CEO of Sunwing Travel Group. Royalton Resorts is operated by Sunwing affiliate Blue Diamond Resorts.
“So our room stock is increasing significantly but it is high-quality and translates into a higher spend per visitor,” says Steele. He notes that while the foot print per visitor is generally the same between high-end and medium-level hotel properties, the spend depends on the type of institutions.
While nearly all of the new development in Grenada is focused on high-level niche properties, Steele sees the trend overall benefitting mid-level properties as well.
“Our focus is always on how our tourism development can benefit our population,” he says. To that end, the government would like to see a greater focus on getting more of Grenada’s agricultural products to provide for these hotels.
“It is that trickle-down effect we are looking for. So it is not just those directly employed by the industry that benefit, we want our farmers and our tour operators to benefit more. We need to get a little more critical mass to reach this stage –both from the number of rooms and the number of farmers who supply the hotels – and supply not just 1-2 products but a larger variety of food products. We believe based on the topography of Grenada that we can supply a considerably larger variety than we do currently,” he said.
Steele believes that the new hotel development will also bolster the island’s communication efforts. “The types of investors we now have are the ones who spend considerably on marketing, and this becomes destination marketing for all of Grenada. We work hand in hand with them on these efforts and we have been lucky in this area since these investors have far-reaching tentacles into the leisure market. We have been able to piggy back on this and they also recognize the benefit.”
Beyond hotel development, Grenada is also examining plans to develop the island into a Free Zone and redevelop its downtown. In 2016 the government granted Urbaniza, a Miami-Brazil group of real estate companies, the right to develop a privately owned and operated duty free zone that could include a duty free port. Urbaniza is also involved with a redevelopment of the Carenage, the picturesque horseshoe shaped harbor in Grenada’s St. George’s Bay. The Carenage Revitalization/Development will be a multi-functional project to include condo apartments, a boutique hotel, commercial use, retail and restaurants.
In addition to the natural beauty and business opportunities offered by Grenada, the country offers a very interesting investment incentive with its Citizenship by Investment program, where individuals and families receive a dual citizenship passport after investing certain amounts of money in select projects. Furthermore, the Grenada CBI is the only Caribbean CBI program that offers economic citizens the opportunity to participate in the US E 2 Program, which allows investors to live and work in the U.S., as well and includes visa-free travel to China.
The message that Steele is stressing is that ‘Grenada is open for business.’
“If you are a conscientious green investor and recognize the potential of Grenada, we are nation building and offer you a chance to be part of this transformational opportunity,” he concludes.