Last updated: 09:48 AM ET, Tue March 17 2015

Montserrat's 'Green' And 'Gritty' Sides Get Equal Love With New Website

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | March 17, 2015

Montserrat's 'Green' And 'Gritty' Sides Get Equal Love With New Website

Photo: Visitors view Plymouth, Montserrat’s one-time capital. (Photo courtesy of Montserrat Development Corp)

The Montserrat Development Corp. (MDC)’s Tourism Divison has premiered a new website showcasing the island’s “green and gritty” sides, highlighted by the former capital of Plymouth, a Georgian-era town “literally suspended in time” following the 1995 eruption of the previously dormant Soufrière Hills volcano.

The revamped website is an initiative directed by Anita Nightingale, MDC’s director of tourism, who in her eight months in the position has consulted with stakeholders including tour operators in “key target countries,” as she directs Montserrat’s “post-volcano tourism industry.”

Said Nightingale, “The volcano forms our gritty side and it has positively influenced this new strategy. But it is always in partnership with our lush green side.”

Two decades ago the volcano’s eruption buried Plymouth in more than 39 feet of mud, destroying the airport and seaport. The volcano also rendered the island’s southern half (the "exclusion zone") uninhabitable, and the area was evacuated.

Today, travelers can visit the exclusion zone to survey the volcano’s impact. Vacationers can also arrange tours of Plymouth’s surreal, haunting landscape with certified guides and taxi drivers.

Travelers can also view the ash flows covering the former airport from an observation area on Jack Boy Hill. The Montserrat Volcano Observatory also has an observation deck from where visitors can view the former capital’s landscape of abandoned homes and buildings.

“We want people who are fascinated by our geography of contrasts,” said Nightingale, who added that the volcano is currently at its lowest hazard level ever. “Now is the time for people to come,” she said.

Conversely Montserrat’s northern side was barely affected by the volcanic activity and remains lush and green, with tropical rainforests and beaches. A new capital town is under construction in Little Bay, and the new government center is located in the nearby town of Brades.

“A lot of our travelers are coming from big cities where they always have to be connected and this is one way where they can just disconnect and rediscover the power and serenity of nature, without having to go very far,” Nightingale said.

”We have Plymouth which is in itself an extraordinary attraction,” she added. “We definitely want to make Montserrat a destination of intrigue.

“We’re looking primarily at the adventurer,” Nightingale continued. “Not just those who are looking for an activity that pushes boundaries, but those who are nature- and culture-focused as well. We are talking about environmental science students and professionals, people who have more than a passing interest in nature.”

Nightingale said villas represent 80 percent of Montserrat’s accommodations but bed-and-breakfast hotels and guesthouses now represent a growing option for travellers seeking “intimate” properties with “more of a local connection.”

And Montserrat knows how to party. After all, the island is the home of the global party anthem “Hot Hot Hot” by local artist Arrow. Montserrat was also the pre-volcano home of ex-Beatles producer George Martin’s AIR Studios, where Stevie Wonder, Sting, Paul McCartney, and Earth Wind & Fire recorded albums.

 “The beauty about Montserrat is that you can bring your own party here—preferably on a moonlit black-sand beach,” said Nightingale.

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