Press Esc to close

St. Helena tourism cleared for takeoff

Agence France-Presse, Nov 26 2017, 0:02 IST
(FILES) This file photo taken on October 18, 2017 shows environmental manager of Basil Read construction firm, Namibian born Annina Van Neel Hayes, paying her respects over a plaque commemorating the burial place of the remains of some liberated African slaves found during the construction of a power plant, at the graveyard of Saint Paul's Cathedral, south of Jamestown, in the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena. Nine years ago skeletons of 325 former slaves were discovered during the construction of St. Helena's first airport on the South Atlantic island. After it abolished slave trade in 1807, Britain intercepted Portuguese slave ships sailing off the waters of St. Helena - which lies on what was then a notorious slave route from Africa to the Americas. Between 1840 and 1865, around 25,000 slaves were freed and released on St. Helena, according to historians. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

(FILES) This file photo taken on October 18, 2017 shows environmental manager of Basil Read construction firm, Namibian born Annina Van Neel Hayes, paying her respects over a plaque commemorating the burial place of the remains of some liberated African slaves found during the construction of a power plant, at the graveyard of Saint Paul's Cathedral, south of Jamestown, in the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena. Nine years ago skeletons of 325 former slaves were discovered during the construction of St. Helena's first airport on the South Atlantic island. After it abolished slave trade in 1807, Britain intercepted Portuguese slave ships sailing off the waters of St. Helena - which lies on what was then a notorious slave route from Africa to the Americas. Between 1840 and 1865, around 25,000 slaves were freed and released on St. Helena, according to historians. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Cut off from the rest of the world for centuries, St Helena, which lies isolated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is now reachable by plane for the first time.

The aviation breakthrough promises to lift the British-run territory from obscurity and bring it within reach of international tourists. The arrival of the first commercial flight was also a relief for islanders frustrated by a delay to the opening because of high winds.

After years of procrastination, London gave the green light in 2011 for a full runway on the island. The ambition was to bring it within six hours of mainland Africa instead of the five days previously needed to make the ocean voyage from Cape Town.

British officials hoped that 30,000 tourists a year would visit the island, which is home to just 4,500 residents -- known as "Saints".

Just don't expect white sandy beaches and palm trees. Rather, the island is known as a paradise for hikers and divers with dramatic scenery and its volcanic origins, and boasts history as rich as its flora and fauna.

The British have detained various opposition forces on the island over the centuries, including the defeated Napoleon after the Battle of Waterloo who died in exile on St Helena in 1821.

Encouraged by London's upbeat estimates, islanders began investing in tourism, sensing an opportunity in an economy where the average annual salary is just 7,280.

Local businessman Johnny Herne runs a pleasure boat that he imported from Scotland 8,000 km away on which guests can spot humpback whales and dolphins along the craggy coastline. He has so far invested 182,000 in his business but now is drowning in debt as a result of the airport delay, which he says contributed to his divorce. "It ruined my life," he said.

Entrepreneur Paul Hickling produces a cactus liqueur and a local coffee and has invested more than 100,000."Unfortunately the airport got delayed -- but we had already invested the money."

In April 2016, just three weeks before the 285-million airport's grand opening, disaster struck.Unforeseen winds meant that takeoffs and landings were ruled too dangerous, leaving islanders dismayed.

Hazel Wilmot, a hotelier in the capital Jamestown, had large quantities of food and drink shipped to St Helena and her property was fully booked. But with the delay, tourists cancelled their trips.

"I had four containers at sea full of food, full of booze that I could not use," she said. In 2016 she says she lost at least 200,000. After the 18-month delay, the first commercial flight finally touched down on October 14.

Go to Top

More from this section
Most trending stories
Photo Gallery
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets a gathering during 'Rally for Change' at Jawaharlal Nehru...

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets a gathering during 'Rally for Change' at Jawaharlal Nehru...

Rahul Gandhi, newly elected president of India's main opposition Congress party, kisses the...

Rahul Gandhi, newly elected president of India's main opposition Congress party, kisses the...

A performer poses during celebrations after Rahul Gandhi, newly elected president of India's main...

A performer poses during celebrations after Rahul Gandhi, newly elected president of India's main...

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral...

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral...

Army and Air Force jawans pay homage to the martyrs of Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, on the...

Army and Air Force jawans pay homage to the martyrs of Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, on the...

Women take part in a bike rally to commemorate the Vijay Diwas celebrations in Karad, Maharashtra...

Women take part in a bike rally to commemorate the Vijay Diwas celebrations in Karad, Maharashtra...

Polling staff check EVM one day ahead of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation elections, in...

Polling staff check EVM one day ahead of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation elections, in...

Umarte Sau Crore Abhiyan Bihar members with eunuchs at a candle light march during a protest...

Umarte Sau Crore Abhiyan Bihar members with eunuchs at a candle light march during a protest...

Indian Air Force's 'Akash Ganga' sky diving team members perform during an air show on the...

Indian Air Force's 'Akash Ganga' sky diving team members perform during an air show on the...

The new Stoos Bahn, which claims to be the steepest funicular railway in the world, stands on its...

The new Stoos Bahn, which claims to be the steepest funicular railway in the world, stands on its...

Like us on Facebook

Copyright 2017, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523
Powered by Yodasoft Technologies Pvt. Ltd.