St Helena may have to change its “Secret of the South Atlantic” slogan: it has been named in the top ten regions to visit in 2016 by the world-renowned Lonely Planet guides.
The accolade brings “significant global tourism profile” just in time for the scheduled opening of St Helena’s first airport, said the island’s economy chief, Dr Niall O’Keefe.
But global recognition may have come too soon for the island, which will not have anywhere near the number of new hotel beds that island leaders hoped would be in place by the time of the airport opening.
“The wider world can now access the adventure, heritage and natural beauty of St Helena by air,” said Dr O’Keeffe. But he admitted that “much work remains to be done to develop our accommodation and tourism services in the years ahead”.
The Lonely Planet website says: “One of travel’s last truly remote destinations will become a little less so in 2016. St Helena, now accessible only by ship, will gain a long-mooted airport.
“Tourists are unlikely to overrun this speck in the South Atlantic Ocean, but the islanders are building a 32-room hotel just in case. Whatever happens, it won’t change the relaxed pace of life here, nor lessen the lure of a place as curious now as it was when Charles Darwin swung by in 1836.”
St Helena ranks number ten on the list of top regions, which is headed by Transylvania, West Iceland and Cuba’s Valle de Viñales. New Zealand’s Waiheke Island also features on the list, but it doesn’t match St Helena’s remoteness – it’s only 35 minutes by ferry from the city of Auckland.
All ten feature in Lonely Planet’s new Best of Travel 2016 book, along with the world’s top ten countries, headed by Botswana, Japan and the USA.
Lonely Planet describes the 11th edition of the annual publication as a “collection of the hottest trends, destinations, journeys and all-around best travel experiences for the year ahead… a year’s worth of travel inspiration to take you out of the ordinary and into some unforgettable experiences.”
It adds: “Each destination featured has passed through our agonising selection process to win a place on Lonely Planet’s hallowed Best in Travel list.”
Governor Mark Capes welcomed the international plug for the St Helena tourism industry, which could bring “enhanced quality of life” for residents.
He said: “This recognition from Lonely Planet once again underlines how St Helena continues to achieve tremendous success on a global scale with limited resources and the challenges that our remoteness bring.”
Lawson Henry, the councillor in charge of economic development, paid tribute to all those involved in the island’s tourism industry for helping to achieve the top-ten listing.
Dr O’Keeffe will attend an award ceremony in London on Sunday 1 November 2015, along with Enterprise St Helena marketing manager Chanelle Marais, London representative Kedell Warboys MBE and Mairi McKinistry of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
It coincides with the World Travel Market.
- The Best of Travel guide may be right to highlight the attractiveness of St Helena as “the Galápagos of the South Atlantic”, but the lead-in time involved in publishing a book has led to it being slightly out of date in one respect. It says: “…the airport will doubtless change St Helena eventually, but it won’t make it any less exciting or curious as a destination in the short term. Mobile phone reception will remain a rumour…”
Last chance: to St Helena on the RMS – Lonely Planet travel article
Top 10 Regions in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016
- Transylvania, Romania
- West Iceland
- Valle de Viñales, Cuba
- Friuli’s wine regions, Italy
- Waiheke Island, New Zealand
- The Auvergne, France
- Hawaii, USA
- Bavaria, Germany
- Costa Verde, Brazil
- St Helena, British Territories