A Conversation with Consul General Raphael Michael Brizan and Mrs. Christine Noel-Horsford, Director of Sales, USA, for the Grenada Tourism Authority.
Photo courtesy: Grenada Tourism Authority
By Linda Nwoke, Exclusive to CAW
Grenada, also popularly called the “Land of Spice,” on February 7, commemorates its golden or 50th anniversary of independence amidst reflections on its journey since 1974. In a conversation with our Editor-in-Chief, Pearl Phillip, the Honorable Raphael Michael Brizan, Consul General of Grenada in New York, and Mrs. Christine Noel-Horsford, Director of Sales, USA, for the Grenada Tourism Authority, the milestones and challenges of this half-century were explored.
They reflected on the country’s past, how it emerged from colonial rule and navigated through revolutionary periods and an American invasion. Despite the struggles, it has accomplished remarkable educational achievements, exemplified by increased scholarships and the construction of an international airport within a concise timeframe, which remains an area of significant advancement. Despite past setbacks, the nation continues pursuing agro-processing to enhance economic resilience and sustainability.
Grenada’s Tourism Sector
Over the past five decades, the country’s tourism industry has significantly developed, marked by its commitment to safety and community engagement. According to Mrs. Christine Noel-Horsford, Director of Sales, USA, for the Grenada Tourism Authority, Grenada’s appeal lies in its diverse experiences across three islands – mainland Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique. The country’s enduring reputation as a safe destination and its unique feature as a destination for ‘community tourism’ remains integral to the visitor experience.
Reflecting on the evolution of hotel offerings, Mrs. Noel-Horsford notes the prevalence of locally owned and managed boutique inns, fostering a personalized atmosphere for guests and preserving Grenada’s charm. Another notable destination is the importance of St. George’s University (SGU) as a significant contribution to the island’s appeal.
The Theme of the 50th Anniversary and the Diaspora’s Role
The anniversary theme, “One People, One Journey, One Future,” represents the diaspora’s vital role in the country’s development. The Consul General, Rafael Michael Brizan, acknowledged the significant contributions of Grenadians abroad. He noted their financial support through remittances and organized efforts in healthcare, sports, and education.
Highlighting the diaspora’s impact on healthcare, Mr. Brizan acknowledges their provision of essential services and assistance in navigating medical challenges. He amplified the value of their contributions and called for continued engagement in various sectors to propel Grenada’s growth and development. He believes, “The diaspora is very valuable, and we encourage them to continue to participate and contribute in their ways.”
The Director of Tourism added the significance of the 473 Connect Ambassador program designed for second and third-generation Grenadians abroad. According to her, the program incentivizes diaspora involvement by offering rewards such as discount cards and all-inclusive vacations for promoting Grenada to family and friends. “We invite the Grenadian to become a full 473 Connect Ambassador. If you are a full 473 Connect Ambassador, you could invite your family and friends to come down, and the person with the most points gets an all-inclusive paid vacation for two,” she explains.
Initiatives to Make Tourism Sustainable & Environmentally Friendly
As a recognized tourist destination by major publications like the New York Times and USA Today, Mrs. Noel-Horsford boasts of Grenada’s appeal by citing accolades such as the recognition as one of the “52 Places to Visit for 2024” by the New York Times and Carriacou receiving the “Best Beach in the Caribbean” award for the second consecutive year.
The increased flight accessibility from JetBlue and American Airlines, catering to the growing interest in Grenada from New York and beyond, has contributed immensely to the achievement. Noel-Horsford also emphasizes Grenada’s culinary offerings as a great appeal for visitors, focusing on farm-to-table practices and a burgeoning chocolate industry. As Mrs. Noel affirms, “We promote Grenada…the whole culinary landscape is significant for us.”
The annual Chocolate Festival has allowed visitors to immerse themselves in the cocoa experience and engage with local traditions. “Additionally, the industry’s investment in training local chefs and bartenders has enhanced Grenada’s reputation as a culinary destination,” says Noel-Horsford.
On sustainable tourism, Grenada is set to host the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Sustainable Tourism Conference, showcasing its commitment to environmental preservation with an initiative like the Underwater Sculpture Park, aimed at protecting coral reefs and marine life. The Director stated that there are plans to expand the park to Carriacou, noting the increasing number of green-certified hotels and demonstrating Grenada’s dedication to sustainability.
Planned Activities for the Celebration of Grenada’s 50th Anniversary
The Consul General, Honorable Rafael Michael Bresen, describes the jubilee celebration as a year-long endeavor, with activities preceding and following the actual anniversary date. He outlined a comprehensive array of activities planned over a year to encompass various events and initiatives. For instance, the recent gala in New York and other events like church services, senior appreciation, and cultural competitions. All of which demonstrates the diverse range of celebrations. He also mentions ongoing and upcoming activities organized by diaspora communities across the United States, emphasizing the widespread participation and enthusiasm for the milestone.
Reflecting on the preparations in Grenada itself, he notes the extensive efforts to beautify and prepare the island for the festivities, including painting, cleaning, and community engagement activities. He highlighted the collective spirit and anticipation surrounding the celebration, which extends beyond the anniversary date and captures Grenada’s vibrant culture and tradition. He also highlighted the culinary traditions integral to Grenada’s jubilee celebrations. According to the Consul General, “Of course, we cook oil down,” noting the rich cultural heritage and festive spirit permeating the commemorations.
Next Steps and Future Plans
Looking ahead, the Consul General reflects on his initial months in New York, acknowledging the learning curve and diverse Grenadian community present. He reflected on the importance of collaboration with various groups to advance Grenada’s development goals, emphasizing the need for inward investment and skill transfer. He notes, “We need to start looking inwards, engaging in projects that would help in the furtherance of our country.”
In his vision, Grenadians with resources can come together to invest in projects back home, fostering economic growth and skill development. The Consul General’s approach prioritizes unity and collective action to propel Grenada’s progress, affirming, “We need to pull together.”
The Director of Tourism explained that the Grenada Tourism Authority is attuned to evolving trends in the travel industry, focusing on wellness tourism. According to Noel-Horsford, “Health and wellness, to me, is a trend and is a perfect destination to attract those people seeking the whole health and wellness tourism.” She explained that Grenada’s natural assets, including beaches, mountains, and waterfalls, contribute to its appeal to wellness seekers.
Furthermore, the farm-to-table experiences and yoga retreats further enhance Grenada’s wellness offerings, with other attractions like it gaining traction for weddings, honeymoons, and multi-generational travel groups, leveraging its safety and diverse accommodation options, such as villas with personal chefs. “We have seen a significant growth in those areas as well,” says Noel-Horsford.
The Consul General concluded by sending a message to the Grenada diaspora: “Grenada needs you.”
For more information about traveling to Grenada, visit www.puregrenada.com, and for Grenada’s 50th Anniversary activities, visit www.grenadaturns50.gd