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Sports and golf tourism

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By Garth Saunders

The Donald Trump “Best of the Best” Golf Tournament is scheduled for May this year at the idyllic Raffles Resort on the island of Canouan in the Grenadines.

What is not always made clear is whether or not the Grenadines form part of the independent nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). {{more}}

Quite apart from the obvious marketing and identity challenges, there seems to be a lack of appreciation of the opportunities, importance and potential impact of this major sports tourism event for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Here we have an 18-hole international golf course, marketed as one of the most challenging in the world on the most beautiful island in the Caribbean (according to Donald Trump) and we appear to be taking these developments all for granted.

The mere thought of Donald Trump, Raffles Resort and world class sports brands like Taylor-Made and Adidas converging for over a week anywhere in St. Vincent and the Grenadines most certainly demands Prime Ministerial attention.

The initiative however sits squarely on the shoulders of our new Sports Tourism Ministry, whose responsibility it is to somehow identify with this major event, if only to bring St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in its entirety, into world focus. This Ministry therefore requires strengthening.

Whatever the agreement between the Developers, Raffles Resort and our Government, there should be some scope for marketing Canouan as part of SVG.

Of course, businesses have their rights to branding and marketing in ways which will create the most wealth for themselves, but I believe that some consideration in this regard could be achieved.

It may not be too late for negotiation or co-operation. I am sure that there will be many common interests placed on the table. There may well be opportunities for mutual benefits as Canouan continues to be promoted as an upscale golf tourism destination.

Why can’t the Ministry of Tourism and Sports also actively promote St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a golf tourism destination to attract more foreign visitors to not only Canouan but the remainder of SVG?

Donald Trump and Raffles have recognised the fact that golfers are tourists who travel with families, spend money, want high-quality services and hotels, and are willing to pay. Vincentians must also be aware that although golf is not a popular local sport, a large percentage of golfers are also corporate investors, with the potential to recognise or unearth non-golf related investments in our Country.

Next year’s Cricket World Cup will bring lots of rich visitors, journalists, businessmen and sportsmen to the region. Golf tourism could then be marketed in parallel with the cricket itself. There will be many cricket team casualties as the World Cup progresses over its eight-week duration and therefore ample opportunities to keep many players, supporters and spectators otherwise occupied.

There are many countries that have successfully developed golf as a tourism pull and there is no reason why we should not do the same.

Of course if this trend continues and the market grows, there will be associated costs and benefits to our precious but fragile islands. These will be some of the interests that must be placed on the negotiating table. The primary consideration for us must be the preservation of our islands and our environment for future generations.

In conclusion, I wish to remind those in authority that we have seemingly forgotten the recent success of female Vincentian basketballer Sophia Young.

The fact that in 2005, SVG produced the most outstanding female college basketballer in all of the United States meant that we were presented with a rare sports tourism opportunity, one which we have so far failed to take advantage of or even recognise.

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