Wed | Apr 26, 2017

Go off the grid to Montserrat: Appreciating the island's green and gritty sides

Published:Wednesday | March 25, 2015 | 3:00 AM

The island of Montserrat is on the rebound. A dynamic tourism marketing thrust driven by a new website, which has just gone live, is seeing the island creatively and meaningfully brought to life.

The former capital, Plymouth, now literally suspended in time, is a central feature of Montserrat'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.

Nightingale, in the job for a little over eight months, 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 Soufriere Hills volcano, along with the walk-through museum of the island's former capital, are central features of that strategy.

"The volcano," enthuses the new tourism director, "forms our gritty side and it has positively influenced this new strategy. But it is always in partnership with our lush green side."

"We want people who are fascinated by our geography of contrasts," she adds, pointing out that in terms of the volcano, "We are at our lowest hazard level ever. Now is the time for people to come."

first step

A first step on that journey to discover Montserrat - and to rediscover for others - begins with the rebranded, cutting-edge yet user-friendly website www.visitmontserrat.com, which was designed by Katalyst Creative Partners.

"The goal of the site," Nightingale explains, "is to make it intuitive and accessible via any medium, from desktops to laptops, from tablets to smartphones. We are emphasising bold imagery and less text. The pictures tell the story."

'Go Off the Grid; Explore the Green and the Gritty' is the greeting awaiting visitors to the image-laden site, giving a first hint of the adventure that beckons.

"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."

"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 per cent 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."

And after all that exploring of the only buried capital in the Americas, all that hiking, diving, touring and relaxing, turn it up for some serious partying Montserrat style.

Montserratians know how to unwind and party. After all, this little gem of an island gave the world the party anthem, Hot Hot Hot, by local artiste and international star Arrow.

It was also the home of the world-famous AIR Studios of ex-Beatles producer George Martin, where the likes of Stevie Wonder, Sting, Paul McCartney, and Earth Wind & Fire recorded albums.

So, exactly how do you party in Montserrat?

Nightingale knows.

"The beauty about Montserrat is that you can bring your own party here - preferably on a moonlit black-sand beach.

And you are also welcome at any local shindig.

As the Montserrat saying goes: "You're safe."