Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Caribbean in sight, sound, soul and speed

by Bevan Springer
New York Amsterdam News

Recently, I traveled to a beautiful island, the City of Brotherly Love and back to a number of inspiring events in two of New York City's boroughs. It was a seven-day trip which reinforced my belief in the Caribbean and its endless capacity to inspire.

First, it was to the azure waters of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda for sailing week activities with some newly found media colleagues from the US and the UK. The non-stop Continental Airlines flight from its New Jersey hub at Newark was a breeze.

Bevan Springer, a New York Amsterdam News columnist who writes frequently on travel and tourism issues as well as the Caribbean Diaspora, is the president of Marketplace Excellence, Inc. He also produces the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism - CMEx.I have visited Antigua, which boasts 365 beaches, several times since I was a young lad: on national duty as a tennis player, the past decade to produce a media conference, last December to try out Caribbean Airlines' new nonstop service from JFK Airport, and even to enjoy its alluring summer carnival.

This time, I gained an even greater appreciation for the twin islands' strength as a Caribbean tourism player.

I was particularly impressed with its beautiful, pristine environment and the quality of accommodations on island. And, there are some very attractive properties, including the four-star Blue Waters Antigua and Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa in the north, and the well appointed Sugar Ridge boutique hotel on the southwest coast of the island.

Antigua and Barbuda has so much to offer, at surprisingly affordable rates and truly deserves a more aggressive marketing charge across the globe.

Unfortunately, my Caribbean jaunt was short-lived and before I knew it I was deplaning a jet plane in Newark and driving to Philadelphia for the historic Penn Relays where many an athletic star is born.

The Caribbean spirit was strong at this meet thanks to the thousands of Jamaicans who assembled to cheer on their athletes. Other Caribbean nations such as the Bahamas, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago also took to the track, and plenty of praise must be showered on the Caribbean companies who sponsored their athletes.

That same evening, the Spanish Caribbean was the focus at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center in Jamaica, Queens where Xiomara Laugart, the Afro-Cuban vocalist gave a memorable performance. Patrons enjoyed her sultry tones and the band's pulsating Caribbean rhythms generated welcome warmth on a cool April evening.

Following an inspiring church service in Brooklyn on Sunday morning, I attended an event hosted by Country Team Barbados at the Sheraton in Brooklyn (who knew there was a Sheraton in Brooklyn?) in support of athletes from three Barbadian high schools which participated at the Penn Relays.

Even though the Bajans did not return with any medals, I was heartened to learn that two female athletes from my Barbadian alma mater, the St Michael School, performed so well they were offered athletic scholarships.

From Antigua to Philadelphia to Queens and Brooklyn, the Caribbean has so much to be proud of, and I am thankful to carry on witnessing the beauty and excellence of our region in sight, sound, soul and speed.

May 11, 2011