The island of Montserrat is on the rebound, according to the Montserrat Development Corporation, Tourism Division. The former capital Plymouth, now literally suspended in time, is a central feature of island’s new lease of life in its tourism brand strategy.
At the forefront of this new drive is Montserrat’s Director of Tourism, Anita Nightingale. On the job for a little over eight months, she has been consulting with stakeholders on- and off-island, including tour operators in key target countries as she leads the drive to craft Montserrat’s post-volcano tourism industry.
The Soufrière Hills volcano, along with the walk-through museum of island’s former capital, are central features of that strategy. “We want people who are fascinated by our geography of contrasts,” she said, pointing out that in terms of the volcano, “We are at our lowest hazard level ever. Now is the time for people to come.”
“Go Off the Grid; Explore the Green and the Gritty” is the message in Montserrat’s new website, giving a first hint of the adventure that beckons.
“Another word for gritty is our tough side,” said Nightingale, referring in part to the oft-quoted resilience of Montserratians and the charm of the island. “So we have our soft side and our tough side. Very much like our own people.”
“Montserrat is a destination of adventure and seclusion and so what we are offering is a double-edged experience,” she added. “A lot of our travellers are coming from big cities where they always have to be connected and this is one way where they can just disconnect and rediscover the power and serenity of nature, without having to go very far.
”We have Plymouth which is of itself an extraordinary attraction,” she pointed out. “In Mexico they have the lost city, in the United States they have ghost towns but here we have a hidden town, the only one of its kind in the Americas. And especially with the volcano and Plymouth, we definitely want to make Montserrat a destination of intrigue.”
She said she is looking primarily at the adventurer…not just those who are looking for an activity that pushes boundaries but those who are nature- and culture-focused as well. “We are talking about environmental science students and professionals...people who have more than a passing interest in nature.”
“We are targeting people who appreciate a nature-rich environment and are willing to do things within it to challenge themselves. That would be hiking, diving, bird watching, spearfishing, boat tours and other outdoor activities.”
On the other hand, the villa tourism industry which successfully underpinned Montserrat’s tourism in the past years and for which the island has become well-known, is also highlighted. “The villa sector which was the cornerstone of Montserrat’s pre-volcano tourism industry still accounts for 80% of accommodation, but for those who want something a little more intimate with more of a local connection, bed and breakfasts and guesthouses are equally important.”
“Our main traveler, the Adventurer, is one who will stay here ideally for seven to nine days. Another key target is the day and weekend excursionist, like those coming by ferry and yacht.”