The exodus of people from the mainland to the Grenadines for the Easter break is likely to begin as soon as this weekend, climaxing on Easter Monday, April 22.
Travelling to the Grenadines for the Easter holidays is a practice deeply rooted in local tradition. For generations, Vincentians who live on the mainland have journeyed to mainly Bequia, Union Island and Canouan during the Easter break to visit relatives and friends; and schools, churches and youth groups go there to camp.
But the last decade or so has been witness to an exponential increase in the movement of people to the ‘cays’ over Easter and a radical shift in what takes place on these tiny isles, believed to be the closest to paradise on this side of eternity.
Traditionally, Bequia’s events revolved around their Easter Regatta, with sailing, fishing and sea activities being most prominent. Not so today, as the regatta is now playing second fiddle to onshore events. Bequia is now the place to be at Easter for the party crowd looking for back-to-back events which have very little to do with Easter or the sailing tradition of Bequia.
For sure, the Bequia economy gets a positive injection by way of increased patronage of the ferries, guest houses, catamarans, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, bars and taxis. But this time has also become one of great consternation for the 5000 or so Bequia residents, who complain bitterly about the noise, crowds, garbage, traffic and disorderly conduct of intoxicated visitors who descend in their hundreds on the island.
The truth is, Bequia does not have an adequacy of services — waste disposal, sanitary facilities, wait staff at restaurants et cetera — and the carrying capacity to support this huge influx of partygoers.
So, friction has developed between the residents and visitors over the last three to five years, as residents of the island push back against the inconveniences. But we have to learn to live with each other. While we each have the same right as any other Vincentian to enjoy all that nature has blessed us with, we have to do so without infringing on the rights of others.
Strict guidelines should be set down for party promoters including the maximum number of patrons allowed at each event, the hours during which music can be played, the provision of an adequate number of portable toilets, security personnel, post event clean up crew etc. Perhaps a caution fee should be paid to cover costs which fall to the State or the regatta organizers that promoters do not take care of.
But the over-capacity crowds on Bequia have already begun to provide business opportunities on the other Grenadine islands, as it is not only the residents of Bequia who have complained about the crowds. Some frustrated visitors have turned their attention further south to the Easterval activities on Union Island and offshore parties onboard catamarans.
We cannot kill the goose that lays the golden egg. If we are reasonable and allow for give and take, we can make Easter in the Grenadines work for all of us.