When you get two governments to agree on anything, it is an amazing act of diplomacy. When two governments agree on a program involving high school students, it is very more incredible.
It is difficult to believe, but Washington DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and Anguilla Tourism Minister Victor Banks did find a common cause: to introduce DC high school students to the culture, customs, and cuisine of Anguilla as well as its tourism and banking industries. The new DC/Anguilla internship venture is guided by DC Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson and coordinated through the Anguilla Department of Tourism, in cooperation with the country’s Department of Education.
For two weeks this summer, two students from DC Public Schools were selected to travel to the British West Indies country of Anguilla to learn, first hand, about tourism, international hotel and financial management, and experience the country from the inside out.
And the Winners Are
Darnisha Kiyana Johnson is a student at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Elizabeth Noelle Speight studies at the Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School. The competition required students to respond to questions about their interests, hobbies and career goals.
Ms. Johnson, a nominee for the US National Achievement Academy Yearbook for the Who’s Who in Foreign Languages and the Who’s Who in Mathematics Award, is a member of the National Society of High School Scholars and the National Honors Society. Her interest in winning the Anguilla internship focused on her desire to learn “how to function is a professional environment.” Concerned with the possibility of home sickness, Ms. Johnson was prepared to channel these feelings toward becoming a “more independent individual.”
Ms. Speight coveted the Anguilla internship opportunity so that she could have “the opportunity to be exposed to different cultures…and to form bonding and…lasting relationships.” Addressing her interests in hotel management and tourism, she confessed to her love for travel, often asking the question: what would it be like to live there?
Sharing = Caring
“The internships are not about keeping jobs away from Anguilla citizens, but rather a way to share our culture with others” stated Minister Banks, who considers Johnson and Speight as good-will ambassadors. Anguillans have a history of volunteerism, helping others, sharing resources, and encouraging educational exchanges.
On July 14, Johnson and Speight, with new passports in hand, waved goodbye to friends and family, and boarded an American Airlines flight to Anguilla via Puerto Rico to experience a brand-new culture, learn how hotels and tourism sustain the economic base of this BWI’s destination, and the role of banking in this paradigm.
During the day, the students joined the staff of Anguilla’s major hotels (including Cap Juluca and Cuisinart) and spent time as managers-in-training entering the demanding world of housekeeping, food and beverage and check-in/out. The National Bank of Anguilla introduced the young women to investor relations and credit management.
Students Experience Tourism
In addition to on-the-job training experiences, the DC students enjoyed horseback riding on the powdery sand beaches of Anguilla, learned the art of elegant dining at many of the fine gourmet restaurants located throughout the country, spent a day dealing with St. Martin traffic jams and learned how to mold clay into an art form from the famous Anguilla potter, Courtney Orlando Devonish.
A Slice of Paradise
Anguilla is a very special part of the British West Indies, located approximately 150 miles east of Puerto Rico and 9 miles north of St. Martin. Anguilla, which means eel, is 16 miles long and 3 miles wide, mostly flat, with low levels of rainfall. The white powdery sand and blue green water make for the best Caribbean beaches in the region. The Valley is Anguilla’s capital and home to approximately 600 of the island’s residents.
Getting to Bliss
There is a cliché that suggests that the harder the struggle the greater the reward. This happens to be true for getting to Anguilla. At this time there are no direct flights to The Valley and the connecting choices are limited. Visitors can transit through Puerto Rico (American Airlines) or via St. Maartin (US Air, Delta, American and Jet Blue) to Princess Juliana Airport followed by a water taxi or ferry to Anguilla (via FunTime Tours). When possible, use the Puerto Rico connection even though the flight options may be limited.
Private ground transportation is a must in Anguilla and taxi’s and car rentals can be pricy (unless you are reserving the Paradise Cove summer value package that includes a car). The most viable alternative is to call Accelyn Connor (Premier Taxi and Tour Service) and make arrangements with him for sight seeing, dining reservations, and local shopping. Accelyn not only knows everyone and every place on the island, his electronics background means that if your computer crashes, or your cell phone stops working – he can make the problems go away.
Lucky for me, I stayed at Paradise Cove (reported to have the best pool in Anguilla) and used a skateboard to transit my huge accommodations (at modest prices). The pool (which I had all to myself) is perfect for lap swimming and incredibly well- kept. The Cove staffers are delightfully warmhearted and share a generosity of spirit (and a Johnny Cake) adding to the overall delight of being in Anguilla.
Travelers looking for on-premise bars, gourmet restaurants, boutique shops, a spa and exercise facilities and accommodations crafted along a never-ending beach will be incredibly content at CuisinArt. In addition, the charming and talented executive chef, Daniel LeGuenan, is delighted to provide attractive menus for special-needs guests. From Kosher to gluten and salt free diets, this hotel addresses the most challenging wants/needs of the guest. Of course the suites are superb (and very private). This is a movie star level hide – away…but I did spot a few mortals drinking the local Pyrat Rum (excellent) at the bar.
With a new $80 million investment, Cap Juluca guests appear to be happy in this charming resort with over 1 mile of beach-front accommodations. Looking for the pool? It’s just behind the restaurant!
Construction is almost completed at the Viceroy (thanks to a recent multi-million dollar investment) and visitors looking to extend their leisure time in a condo or town house (and are ok with limiting the amount of days they actually reside in Anguilla), should schedule a visit to this new and elegant property. The accommodations are quite grand and the views incredible. It is not cheap to be chic – the lowest price for a studio is just under US$1 million.
More than Food
Gone are the days when gourmet dining was a concept unknown in the Caribbean. There are so many fine-dining restaurants in Anguilla that visitors need almost three months to enjoy each one. Don’t leave for home without stopping at Tasty’s (West Indian), E’s Oven (Caribbean fusion), da’Vida and Straw Hat (global focus with breath-taking views).
For Sunday brunch Johnno’s is a well-deserved legend. Simply walk along the sand to reach this funky restaurant/jazz club. The food and the music are world-class (or better) and everyone shows up for Sunday brunch. Looking to “run into” a Minister or corporate executive? You are more than likely to find them gorging on steamed fresh snapper, conch, shrimp scampi and beer, a lime colada (with wild lime liqueur) an iced guava berry or mango margarita.
Don’t even think of dressing-up (a bikini and t-shirt borders are “formal”) and shoes are optional; in-between courses guests run into the nearby ocean to cool off and wash away sticky fingers.
Supporting Anguilla Arts
Bringing a gift? Designing a home? The one-stop shop for fine art by Anguilla artists and sculptors is Frank Costin’s Savannah Gallery. Featured notables include Jo-Anne Mason (Anguillan by choice) offers superb watercolors and botanicals. Iris Lewis at 82 is the “grande dame” of the Anguillan artist community. Her paintings continue to reflect local landscapes – from a trumpet vine in her personal garden to racing boats.
“Tourism is the foundation of our economy and it is everybody’s business,” according to Tourism Minister Victor Banks. Anguilla is well-positioned to handle natural and man-made storms. While Hurricane Omar caused cosmetic damage and delayed openings creating major inconveniences, no injuries were reported or lives lost. Global financiers continue to invest and open new accommodations and restaurants even though tourism declined 21.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009.
Alec Sanguinetti, the director general and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, speaking at a recent Anguilla Hotel Association meeting suggests that the term “crises management” be replaced with “opportunity management.”
Sanguinetti recommends that instead of putting “up the shutters” and letting “anxiety and fear” control strategies, current market conditions ought to be approached with “optimism.” Instead of regressive taxes and travel/visa restrictions this period should be used to concentrate on “fixing the regional issues impacting…tourism…”
The good news is that Anguilla continues to maintain its luxury-brand focus with over 128,144 selecting this Caribbean destination for their holiday.
1. Fees: Some hotels continue to charge hourly/daily fees for Internet access. Check hotel policy and do not make assumptions
2. Real Estate: Condo and other investments require local attorneys to search ownership and title, review purchase/sell agreements, arrange escrow, organize filing applications/fees, and advise on condo strata (defining rights, obligations and restrictions)
3. Transportation: Ferries between Anguilla and St. Martin may not adhere to advertised schedules. Leave lots of time for airline connections
4. Payments: US currency and credit cards are accepted throughout the island. Restaurant dining can be $$$ – make sure there is an adequate line of credit available on the cards
5. Speed bumps: Slow down – they indicate an approach to a town or school
6. Sunscreen: The sun in intense. Don’t ruin the holiday with a serious burn
7. Departure Tax: US$20 to leave Anguilla (cash)
8. Driving: Keep to the left; 30 mph speed limit
9. Weddings: 48 hours for the paper work; US$284 fee plus proof of identify. If divorced, the original decree must be submitted. Widowed? A death certificate must be provided for the deceased.