Antigua and Barbuda tourism roaring back
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Colin James, CEO, Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority
Two of Antigua and Barbuda’s major source markets are driving a robust tourism recovery for the twin-island destination.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s business meetings in Curaçao last week, Colin James, Chief Executive Officer of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, reports that while the tourism sector recovered 88 percent of its 2019 business last year, both the United States and the United Kingdom had registered record levels of stayover arrivals in 2022.
“2022 was a very good year for us … but I think that the good news story is that the U.S. market was five percent up on 2019 and the U.K. market four percent up,” he said, with both markets beating their previous records.
Sluggish airlift has slowed down intra-regional travel, but James said the hospitality sector was doing well: “Our hotels are showing record occupancy levels as well as record ADRs (Average Daily Rates) and so that’s been very, very good for the industry.”
The destination was also beefing up its cruise capacity and has unveiled a fifth berth capable of hosting the new and larger ships sailing the Caribbean.
Infrastructural assets, James notes, add new opportunities: “We have a first class airport facility and now a first class cruise facility and the ability to homeport means that we can take advantage of a lot of these new ships that are coming out.”
There were still challenges with regional airlift, the improvement of which was a major focus as was the restoration of European flights. “Prior to the pandemic, we had weekly charter service out of Germany and Italy and that’s our main focus for this year. We’ll be at the ITB (Berlin in March), we’ll be at WTM (World Travel Market in November), and we are really working assiduously to get the lift back because as you know, ‘have plane will travel!’”
Prior to the pandemic, the summer months have traditionally been a challenge for the Caribbean but Antigua and Barbuda is developing events such as Restaurant Week and Kitesurfing Week to attract interest.
The tourism chief also revealed there was a strong focus on tapping the meetings and incentives market as the destination takes full advantage of revenge travelers and ongoing pent-up demand.