Helena Bennett appointed Director of Tourism
Helena Bennett has been appointed as the new Director of Tourism following the departure of Christopher Pickard. As only the second ever St Helenian to hold the title and just weeks before the first commercial flight to the island, Helena begins her new venture at a crucial time in St Helena’s history.
We sat down with her and asked her a few questions about her background, hobbies and plans for tourism to the soon-to-be newest destination accessible by air.
Where/ what did you study?
I didn’t go to university. My qualifications – in accounting and auditing covering strategic and financial management – are technical, achieved via distance learning whilst working full time on St Helena. During the last three years as Tourist Office Manager I have worked with international travel trade and media, developing tourism systems, tourism products and services.
Where’s your favourite spot on St Helena?
I don’t have a “one” favourite spot. There are too many on St Helena that I enjoy. For example I love walking through Plantation Forest on a sunny day, walking Blue Hill road on a Sunday morning (you can tell the difference from other week days) or sitting on the wall at the seaside in the afternoon. Does a dive spot count? My favourite underwater spot is the Papanui. It is teaming with different species of fish.
What’s your favourite food on St Helena?
Although St Helena has a few unique dishes, like pilau or fishcakes, my favourite food is fish. Any Saint Helenian will tell you how good it is to eat a fresh bullseye (that curls in the pan because it is so fresh).
If you only had one day on St Helena, what should you do?
In one day on St Helena you can cover a lot. I would start with a walk to Diana’s Peak, the national park of St Helena and where third of the UK and her territories’ endemic species are found. A scenic tour around the island will not take you long with a stop off at the Napoleonic properties and Plantation House, including visiting Jonathan the tortoise. I would finish the day with a sea cruise along the coast, where you would see dolphins, humpback whales or whale sharks when they are in season. In fact, I took a day’s leave a few weeks ago and in the space of three hours, I had completed a walk in the country and whale watched from my house. St Helena is a special place!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I wouldn’t call it spare time, I would call it hobbies and I do like to make time for my hobbies. I love to dive (in the summer) and have been diving since I were a teenager. I love the pristine blue water around St Helena and the colourful fish. Diving is a good de-stress mechanism.
I also love to read. I am known as a bookworm in my family. I love all types of genres, from autobiography and classics to sci-fi. I am an amateur photographer and I enjoy taking photographs underwater, landscapes, macro and portraits of my muses. A few of the photographs we use in tourism are my work.
What are your top 3 objectives for Tourism for 2018?
- To create a comprehensive tourism strategy for St Helena. Yes, we do have strategies but they are currently delivered by different stakeholders. I would like to take all these strategies and create one document that clearly sets out St Helena’s objectives for tourism and how we are progressing against them.
- I plan to ensure that the tourism industry and community is involved in the strategy and understands what we as an island needs to achieve including progress.
- All best practices are implemented for St Helena. Best practices are guidelines to ensure St Helena is working to at least a minimum level in comparison to other destinations. The best practices will help the industry ensure that they provide a good service to customers whilst protecting themselves from any expectations.
These are just three things to name, but I plan to work closely with the tourism industry to cement good relationships whilst together we ensure the success of the tourism industry for St Helena.