Welcome to Canouan, where billionaires come to escape millionaires,” says the pilot of my private jet as we land on the island’s newly extended runway. It’s a cliché, of course, but more welcome than the “Welcome to Trump Island” that greeted me last time, 10 years ago.
Back then, Canouan was an Italy-shaped landmark that passengers might spot from their private jets as they flitted past to the more rarefied shores of Mustique, or a sheltered spot beside which to drop anchor for a round of golf. It was also a bit of a Donald Trump theme park, what with its Trump Monte Carlo casino, its Jim Fazio-designed Trump International Golf Club and its D.J. Trump luxury villas. The only other part of the former British colony that hadn’t been Trumped was the Raffles resort, which I remember charged $300 for a martini that came with a 24-carat sword-shaped cocktail stick to keep as a souvenir.
Thankfully, there have been welcome changes since then. The casino went bust (if I could win there, anyone could) and is now a hurricane shelter. The resort was bulldozed. Raffles abandoned the Caribbean. And DJT left town.
The island now has a long private-jet runway – at almost 6,000ft, the longest in the Grenadines, and long enough for a 737 – from which to flit to Barbados in 25 minutes in one of the resort’s two own Citation jets. Next year, the island’s Camper and Nicholson marina, owned by Sandy Lane’s Irish billionaire owner, Dermot Desmond, will be able to offer shelter to passing superyachts, and after a massive renovation the old Tamarind Beach Hotel will re-open its doors.
And of course, there is now the brand-new £100-million Pink Sands Club, into which I jetted a few weeks ago. Just as other local islands in the Grenadines have benefited from a surge of new money (think Mustique, whose new billionaire owners have given it a fresh minimalist-chic feel, Bequia, with its made-over Beach Hotel, and the grand private villas of the SVG, as St Vincent and the Grenadines are known), Canouan has been elevated into another league since the opening of Pink Sands.