Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Grenada last month served as the host of the Caribbean Tourism Organization's State of the Industry Conference, a selection made well over a year ago when the names of Irma and Maria meant nothing more that just that: women's names.

Those names became the main topic of conversations at panel sessions, lunch tables and evening receptions.

But if anyone at the conference wanted to see how to rebuild and recover after suffering the trauma of a hurricane, Grenada was proof.

Hurricane Ivan, a Category 4 storm with 151 mph winds stalled over Grenada for 15 hours in 2004.

It destroyed the nutmeg crop, the mainstay of the island's economy along with tourism, took out several hotels and many homes and businesses -- familiar tales that we have all heard over the last weeks from the islands in the northeastern Caribbean.

For Grenada, Ivan is history, now. The island is fully recovered, better than ever. As for the tourism sector in Grenada, Patricia Maher, CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority, was upbeat, reporting a 13% jump in arrivals from January through August.

"We are poised for growth," she said. "We have 1,500 hotel rooms on all three islands of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, plus villas and guesthouses and are forecasting a 26% growth in room stock over the next two years."

That includes the new Silversands Grenada, targeted at the luxury market, opening next March, 32 new suites at Sandals La Source, several more rooms at True Blue Resort and Mount Cinnamon and the 2019 scheduled opening of the Kimpton Kawana Bay Resort on Grand Anse Beach.

Delegates had some time away from the conference rooms and business sessions and were able to sample a few of Grenada's many attractions, from nutmeg to nature and rum to rhythm, and the island did itself proud.

But as Maher said, "We are counting our blessings. We were lucky this time around concerning Irma and Maria, but many of our neighbors were not, and we have not forgotten them."

Grenada sent a supply ship to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands after the storms and donated over $600,000 to Barbuda, Cuba and Dominica for hurricane relief.

Maher reminded conference delegates that the best way to help the Caribbean is to visit the Caribbean.

"We must keep visitors in the Caribbean," she said. "We have to consider the Caribbean as a global tourist region with different destinations, not islands competing with one another."

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