St Vincent & the Grenadines is a small country in the Caribbean, and is somewhat unknown, however it has much to offer for owners, crew and guests. Yachting Pages spoke to Heather Grant of yacht service experts Erika’s Marine Services who claimed, “Once yachts have visited the island, they always want to come back.”
Superyachts regularly return to St Vincent & the Grenadines
Picturesque secenery on St Vincent & the Grenadines
Private parties can be arranged on the remote beaches on the islands
The team at Erika's Marine Services
What is there to do and see in St Vincent and the Grenadines? What would you recommend?
Most yacht crews have heard of the Tobago Cays, a group of sandy atolls. It is a World Heritage site and is one of the most beautiful and tranquil places in the world; there are no built structures, just sun, sand and sea. Each of the Grenadines islands has a different character and charm; all are beautiful. Each one is volcanic as well, so the geography is rugged.
Yacht guests love the swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving available at every island. St. Vincent itself has an active volcano that people can hike to. Depending on the interests of the owner or guests, the Grenadines can cater to many tastes. There are some great restaurants, top class spas and resorts, and interesting nature activities, including walking/hiking, swimming with turtles, swimming under waterfalls and relaxing on pure white sandy beaches that are almost deserted.
What are some of the more frequent requests from clients that you receive?
Provisioning, flowers, clearances - these are the standard requests. Organising activities would come next, often arranging for a dive guide and making spa or restaurant reservations.
Can you give some quick examples of the type of guides/tours you can arrange?
We work with a variety of tour guides, so can arrange transportation for sightseeing in vehicles on all the islands, water-based tours such as private speed boats, fishing trips or a personalised day tour on a traditional wooden schooner, plus dive guides to help guests see the best of our underwater world. Kiteboarding is a popular sport in the Grenadines - we know the places, the instructors and where to hire equipment, whether for an expert or a novice. Frequently we arrange a local steel pan band, often on a quiet beach where guests are having a BBQ.
Several times in the past few years, we have helped a yacht client make a full length private film, building sets, supplying labour, expertise, transportation, materials for set designers - the list goes on. If anyone wants a special event, we can help. Like to spend a day on a private pirate-themed wooden schooner, visiting locations where real pirates carried out their dastardly deeds? We can easily help.
We can also rent an island for a private ‘happening’ - last season we orchestrated a BBQ for a dozen people on a remote beach, supplying everything from the tent and furniture down to the toothpicks; it was a beautiful event. Another superyacht seeing this from afar insisted on having the same thing. So we did it again the next day for them!
Do you have any recommendations for local produce/food/wine to try?
Yes!! In fact, I have written a small book about locally grown fruits and vegetables, with some recipes. The local tropical fruits are wonderful, fresh and tasty; same with the veg. Virtually no transportation time is needed to get them from the farmer to the end user, so freshness is guaranteed and little fossil fuel is required.
We have a good variety of freshly caught fish - red snapper, mahi-mahi, grouper, marlin and others, plus our famous local lobsters called langoustes.
We try to encourage chefs to buy our local ingredients, using their creativity to concoct something fabulous from them. The added bonus is that locally grown food is less expensive than imported products and available quickly.
Wine is always imported, but we have some good wine merchants to help our clients choose from a wide variety of wines from around the world.
What are the superyacht facilities like in St Vincent and the Grenadines?
As St. Vincent & the Grenadines is a small country, made up of many islands, at the moment we do not have a marina that can handle the requirements of the superyachts. There is one under construction in Canouan and this will be a great benefit to both the yachts and to us. We will have access to facilities that will assist our clients. Currently, large yachts can dock at the cruise ship terminal in St. Vincent if prior arrangements have been made. Otherwise, the yachts either take a mooring or anchor.
Apart from a marina, I feel the facilities we offer to large yachts are adequate. Erika’s will field all clients’ enquiries to the various suppliers and service companies within the country, and if the required item or service is not available in-country, will extend the enquiries to beyond our border.
What is the most bizarre client request you’ve received?
One asked us to ship a package back to their country for them. When we opened the bag, we discovered a stuffed exotic bird, probably an endangered species. Needless to say, we did not call FedEx that day. We did discuss with the client the reason that we could not ship it and they agreed with our decision.
How has Erika’s developed as a company?
Erika’s was founded in 2000. It was a much smaller business then, offering services to the smaller charter yachts that ply the Grenadines waters. We developed over the years to introduce our services to the larger yachts and this part of the business has done very well. The superyachts seem recession proof, so this area of endeavour continues to grow.
What makes you different from your competitors?
We bend over backwards to offer the best service to our clients. It is not always easy in the Grenadines to supply the goods that our clients request. St. Vincent & the Grenadines is a small country, most things are imported and this takes time and organisation to get through the formalities of customs and government regulations. We have developed a wonderful group of suppliers and sub-contractors over the years, which make our jobs easier, in turn allowing us to offer better service to our clients. In addition, our country is made up of many islands, five of which are legal ports of entry. We have an agent on each of the islands, so our services are available anywhere in the country. This gives our clients an advantage when clearing in and out, as well as for receiving provisions or any other products and services they might need; they do not have to come to our one office in Union Island.
Is there anything new with your company or anything that you would like to announce?
Our concierge services are growing to cover even land-based tourists. The experience we have gained with the yachts showed us that the same services could easily be translated to clients who are staying ashore. So if a yacht’s owner or guests wish to spend time ashore, we can make all the arrangements, from accommodation in luxury hotels and villas, to all the regular concierge services - spa and restaurant reservations, ground transportation, event organisation, land-based activities and tours and private air charters. We feel that this increase to our scope will be beneficial to our clients, who often like to make last-minute changes to their itineraries.
What are the biggest challenges that you face in the superyacht industry at the moment?
St. Vincent & the Grenadines is a tiny country in the Caribbean and many have not heard of it. When we are marketing, a good portion of our time is spent showing people where we are and what the islands are like, encouraging them to learn a bit about its beauties and advantages. So we feel as if we are the tourism department as well as a private company marketing its services. However, once yachts have been here, they always want to return.
Were you affected by the recession?
We were affected by the recession in our regular tourism division. People are not travelling as much as they did before 2008 and those who do, spend less. Gone are the free spending days when tourists regularly dined in good restaurants, bought gifts and souvenirs while in our area; this has affected many businesses on our islands. Tourist-related businesses have learned to offer special prices to attract business. Fortunately for us, the superyacht clients continue to come to the Grenadines and are not as constrained by financial concerns as the middle class.
Do you have any top tips in your industry?
My top tip is to offer superb service as well as a friendly and positive attitude. Have your supply chain well organised, so that when the requests come in, you can smoothly deal with obtaining the products or services demanded, delivering in a timely fashion. Communication is s-o-o-o important. If a yacht client asks you to arrange an event or appointment, you must respond quickly, so that they have confidence that you are looking after their needs.
What superyachts/big clients have you worked with that you can share?
Well, I cannot name names, (discretion is our middle name!) but suffice to say we have dealt with some of the largest yachts in the world. Some have returned many times to enjoy the wonderful Grenadines islands and we have become good friends with their crew members. It seems a lot of owners visit the Grenadines over and over again - they really love the islands, the privacy and the beauty.
Who would be your dream client?
We already have some dream clients; really friendly and understanding, and although often under a lot of pressure from owner or guests, they are reasonable and pleasant. From the largest yachts to the smaller vessels, we have had some extraordinarily positive experiences.
For more information, visit Erika’s Marine Services.