FAM Trip – Saint Lucia – September 2018
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional
Twelve Dive Travel Specialists from the United States recently had the pleasure to join the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority on a Familiarization Trip (FAM Trip) to the beautiful Island of Saint Lucia, in the Eastern Caribbean. Saint Lucia is known for its stunning natural beauty and diverse attractions, including the signature Piton Mountains – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What you may not know is that Saint Lucia is a Diver’s Tropical Paradise with a healthy reef system, abundant marine life and a number of accessible shipwrecks. There are at least 14 Professional Dive Operators on the island who will escort you on 22 of their most accessible dive sites along the calm, clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, situated on the west coast of the island. Scuba Divers vacationing in Saint Lucia have their pick from a wide range of World Class Resort Destinations and Dive Centers that cater to the scuba diving community. Saint Lucia is home to a number of Dive Industry Association Members, including the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, Jade Mountain Resort, Anse Chastanet Resort and Scuba St. Lucia. A complete list of Dive Operators and Dive Resorts in Saint Lucia can be found on our DIVE LOCAL website.
Our Industry FAM Trip was set up and sponsored by the St. Lucia Tourism Authority and supported by the Saint Lucia Diver Association. Our Host Accommodations for the week was the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, St. Lucia and our Tourism Guide was Hortensia Joseph, who we all became dear friends with in just a few days. The trip was set up to introduce St. Lucia to Dive Travel Wholesalers, Travel Agents and Certified Dive Travel Specialists from the U.S. diving community. Our group included two Travel Wholesalers, two Travel Agents, five Dive Travel Specialists from U.S. Dive Centers and two travel writers. We were all excited about seeing as much of Saint Lucia as possible, do a fair amount of diving, enjoy the local cuisine, and capture the magic of this beautiful, romantic Caribbean Island. In five days time, Hortensia and the St. Lucia Tourism Authority did not disappoint.
Before any FAM Trip can get off the ground, a fair amount of planning by the Host has to take place. Someone has to justify the time, money and manpower it takes to host a group of travel buyers to your country (Island). Someone has to pay for it. That same group has to put an itinerary together that is informative, meaningful, and fun for the guests. The sponsors have to see the necessity of getting as much done in as short a period of time as possible. The guests expect to spend their time wisely to learn and experience as much of the destination as they can in order to sell it to their customers back home. It helps when Tourism Boards and Dive Travel Wholesalers work with Dive Industry Mavens to help them plan their itinerary and identify appropriate target markets.
The itinerary that Hortensia Joseph put together was action packed. Maybe a weeee-bit too optimistic? After a three hour turbulent-free American Airlines flight from Miami we landed safely at Hewanorra International Airport in Viex Fort (UVF), one of Saint Lucia’s two airports. Our Driver from Travel St. Lucia got us to our Host Condos at the Windjammer Landing shortly after the customary fresh baked bread stop at a local eatery. Thanks, Tage Jn Pierre. The bread was awesome. Scott Seger, the Managing Director of the Windjammer Landing met us at the Host Hotel with Kelly Fontenelle-Clarke and we enjoyed our first Saint Lucian fresh fish dinner.
We awoke early the next morning to a wonderful St Lucian sunrise in time for breakfast at the resort. The sky was sunny & clear so we decided to tour the property at the Windjammer before our morning boat dive and I am so glad we did. Within minutes, the torrential rain from Former Hurricane / Current Tropical Storm Issac came howling in. Now I see why St. Lucia’s rain forest is so green! After a short, heavy rain, the sky cleared and we decided to postpone our dive until 3:00 pm. That afternoon we made two dives in view of the iconic twin Pitons of Saint Lucia. The water was warm and clear and we saw sea turtles, barracuda, and wonderfully colored sponges. Our Photographer, Steve Philbrook, from Aquaventure Dive & Photo Center in Maple Grove, MN captured the dive on video. See for yourself. Saint Lucia Video. After the dive, we returned to the windjammer and got ready for the evening Fish Fry. Now we were getting spoiled.
The third day of our trip went more according to plan. No hurricane or tropical storm. Issac moved to the west and everything was back to normal. Our group split into two groups. Half of us went for a wreck dive with Andre St. Omer from Body Holiday & Dive Fair Helen and the other half went Lionfish Hunting with Sugar Beach Dive. We reunited with our group at the closing ceremonies of Dive Fest Saint Lucia 2018 and then went to dine at Bel Jou for the evening. Thank you General Manager, Dean La Force for the amazing dinner and impeccable service. A good time was had by all. We were now completely spoiled. I appreciate the use of your Wi-Fi equipped, private lounge to engage in a video call back home.
We didn’t dive on our fourth day of the FAM Trip but it was still one of our better days, if not the best. We had breakfast at the Windjammer, took a van ride to hook up with our catamaran and sailed away for site inspections at Ti Kaye, Humming Bird Beach Resort, Anse Chastanet Resort and of course, Jade Mountain. After lunch at Anse Chastanet Resort, we toured the diving operation at Scuba St. Lucia. Georgiana Merlusca, Adventure Sports Co-Manager, gave us a complete and professional tour of the dive operation, the compressor room, the rental equipment locker and the equipment washing and storage center. We saw one of her boats returning from a dive and witnessed a very smooth off loading and reloading process that would make any dive operator jealous. Needless to say, we were impressed.
We ended a full day with our Farewell Dinner at The Landings Resort & Spa. Thank you General Manager, Paul Collymore for that exquisite dinner and your hospitality. All that was left to do was to treat Hortensia to a good-bye drink at the Host Hotel Bar (She wouldn’t let us – she treated) and go back to the condo and pack.
When they say “Come to Saint Luca as a Tourist but Leave as a Friend” – they mean it. My overall impression of Saint Lucia was – It’s a beautiful Island, filled with beautiful people, who want you to visit them again, and again, and again. Saint Lucia is more than a bucket list destination. It’s someplace I want to go back to – soon.
Dive Travel Specialists who sell a lot of dive travel know what it takes to have a successful vacation experience. We are looking for convenient and reasonable air fares, good ground transportation transfers, diver-friendly resorts, good food, and of course, great diving. The great diving part applies to more than good visibility and easy access to the water. It means having a well run diving operation (top-of-the-line rental equipment, quality air compressor, convenient equipment washing and storage area, an uncrowded dive boat and most importantly, a professional, energetic and friendly dive staff. A world-class photo center and Photo Pro would be nice too. We met a number of Dive Operators and Dive Resort Managers on our St. Lucia tour that fit that description. We’ll be going back soon to take a closer look.
You might be asking yourself, “How does an Industry Professional qualify for a FAM trip?” Good question. Dive Resort Destinations, Liveaboards and Dive Operators are looking for Dive Industry Professionals who book group trips. Most group trips are run by Travel Agents, Retail Dive Centers, Dive Clubs and through Tour Operators. Getting invited on a FAM Trip will depend upon your dive travel experience and your history of putting together group trips. It will also depend on how well you network with Travel Wholesalers, Dive Resorts, Dive Operators and Travel Associations. Dive Industry Association works with Dive Travel Specialists to help them grow their dive travel business. We certify Dive Travel Specialists based on their past performance with booking group trips and we work with Industry Professionals who are new to dive travel. There is no charge to fill out a two page retail dive profile. To get started, simply download our Retail Profile and mail it to DIA with your business card. Someone will follow up with an email and phone call.
Putting a group trip together is not as simple as you may think but it is easy to learn how to do. Become a Member of the Dive Industry Association and work with our Dive Travel Specialists. We will introduce you to our Member Dive Travel Wholesalers who can get you started with putting group trips together.
Running dive trips as a Dive Travel Specialist may seem like a lot of work to some, and it may seem all too glamorous to others, but it really is somewhere in the middle. A little more work with a little bit of glamour but a whole heck of a lot of FUN. As St Augustine once said, “Life is a Book, and if you don’t Travel, you’ve only read one page.”
Let’s get you started on the road to becoming a Dive Travel Specialist. Call me.
For more information, contact:
Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional