A leading tennis coach and sports administrator in Canada sees the launch of nonstop Air Canada service to St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) this winter as a boost for sports-related tourism.
Lionel Eli, one of Canada's highly rated and respected tennis coaches and personal trainers, said the Virgin Islands "is not only an incredible vacation spot, but it also is perfect for sports tourism encounters."
The long-serving Director of Tennis and Operations at Banbury Tennis Club in northern Toronto and Director of Tennis at Tam Heather Curling and Tennis Club in Scarborough, said as his members hunker down for the another cold winter, "there's nothing like nonstop service from Pearson International Airport into the Caribbean." The non-stop St. Thomas flights, he added, were "long overdue and right on time for athletic and leisure oriented Canadians seeking warmer climes."
The former Barbados Davis Cup tennis player and national coach who also works as a rehabilitation/athletics therapist (specializing in brain and spinal injuries), was recently in St. Thomas for the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) conference where he led a daily morning workout program. Assisting him was yoga enthusiast, Clayton Sizemore, operations manager of CNN in New York.
Eli highlighted sports tourism as a huge opportunity for the Caribbean, and posited with the number of professional athletes the USVI has produced, the territory is a natural choice for sports travelers in Canada.
"People are curious why Caribbean athletes do so well on the international scene ... and to visit the Caribbean, train in the Caribbean and enjoy Caribbean food, warmth and hospitality is a dream come true for many," said Eli.
Using Airbus 319-100 aircraft, Air Canada operates weekly Saturday service from Toronto to St. Thomas with 14 executive seats and 106 in economy.
USVI Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty expects a 20 percent annual increase in Canadian visitors with the new flight. "We are very keen on forming alliances with professional, collegiate and club member athletes and sports organizations to boost our profile in our key markets."
Commissioner Nicholson-Doty added that the Department of Tourism was also keen on exploring alliances with members of the Caribbean-Canadian community to promote travel to the territory.