One of the Caribbean’s lesser-traveled islands is St. Kitts, the smallest country in the Americas. Nicknamed “Sugar City,” sugar farming long supported the St. Kitts economy, but died out by 2005, around the same time that St. Kitt’s tourism industry emerged.
This year, the St. Kitts Tourism Authority commemorates its 20th anniversary. Established in 2003, St. Kitts welcomed its first large hotel, a Marriott property, to the island that same year. Since then, many more major hotel brands have opened accommodations in St. Kitts, including Ramada, Hyatt, and Hilton, as well as Four Seasons on St. Kitts' sister island, Nevis.
Though the destination is still new to many travelers, St. Kitts has a wealth of experiences focused on nature, wellness, and adventure for visitors to explore. Plus, it is getting easier for travel advisors to book trips to St. Kitts with more flights and accommodation options being added.
“We’re new, we’re fresh, and the consumer today is looking for something different, a richer experience,” St. Kitts Tourism Authority CEO Ellison “Tommy” Thompson told TMR. “We actually want people to get out of their hotels and get into the communities and take advantage of all the activities.”
The St. Kitts Tourism Authority launched its Venture Deeper campaign last year to promote the exciting excursions that the country has to offer, including railway and catamaran tours, hiking, snorkeling and diving, horseback riding, ziplining through the rainforest, and more.
“Anywhere on the island you’re looking at the ocean or the mountains, or you’re looking at both,” Thompson said. “You can also visit our sister island Nevis which is about seven minutes away by ferry boat. So it’s two adventures in one visit.”
A new experience for visitors is Kittitian Rum Master program, where guests get to visit farms, learn about the history and science of rum making, and try their hand at creating their own concoction. That excursion can be booked right on the St. Kitts tourism website. There are also several historical sites across the island, and of course, the beach.
“What we love to do in St. Kitts is limin – that's our way of saying to hang out to chill and so what we invite our visitors to do is to lime, the local way,” Melnecia Marshall, St. Kitts Tourism Authority’s deputy CEO, told TMR.
However, the purpose of the Venture Deeper campaign is to show visitors that St. Kitts is more than “sun, sand, and sea,” and that there is a world of opportunities and natural wonders to behold beyond their hotels. It is also why St. Kitts does not have any all-inclusive resorts.
Marshall suggests that travelers visit for one of St. Kitts’ popular festivals: Sugar Mas Carnival in December and The Summer of Fun, which includes St. Kitts Music Festival, Restaurant Week, Nevis Culturama, and CPL 20 Cricket.
She also recommends hiking Mount Liamuiga, the highest mountain on the island. This four-hour hike is always taken with a tour guide. There are also some less rigorous nature trail hikes, as well.
“It's a very enriching experience,” Marshall said. “Once you get to the top, you can see so many of the other islands – St. Maarten, Anguilla ... it’s quite the experience to do something like that.”
Another popular experience spot on the island is Timothy Hill, where people often go to a get St. Kitts’ “money shot,” she called it. The Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean can be seen in a single view atop this hill. “An Instagram-able moment,” Thompson agreed.
Reaching new heights
St. Kitts’ tourism industry has seen steady growth, and that growth continues to this day. Starting Nov. 2, JetBlue will offer year-round flights from JFK International Airport to St. Kitts three days a week. Also, United Airlines is extending its seasonal flights from Newark to St. Kitts; the airline previously stopped flying in April but will extend the season to August. American Airlines also has seasonal service from JFK to St. Kitts.
The country recently welcomed a new accommodation: seven luxury suites at the Sunset Reef. Ramada will also offer more rooms soon; the hotel initially opened with 50 rooms but will grow to 220 rooms available to book.
St. Kitts was honored with Destination of the Year in the Caribbean Journal’s 2023 Caribbean Travel Awards, which is also propelling them to greater heights as an appealing tourist spot.
“We’ve really done a lot in getting us more visibility,” Thompson said, “and I think it’s paying off when you look at our arrivals in St. Kitts. It’s going up and in the right direction.”
Travel advisors can become certified St. Kitts experts by completing the tourism authority’s destination specialist program. There is also a form on the website for any travel advisor to log bookings to St. Kitts and receive incentive rewards.