Travel agents remain a crucial partner in helping Antigua and Barbuda continue to be one of the Caribbean’s premier luxury destinations, says the twin islands’ tourism chief.
Speaking at World Travel Market in early November, Colin C. James, Chief Executive Officer of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, said: “If there is one thing we learned coming out of the pandemic it is that relationships matter in this business, and you have no stronger relationship than that between a tourist board and a switched-on travel agency.
“Those in the travel trade tell our story, but they can only sell what they know and what they have experienced…so for a destination like us having a close relationship with travel agents helps us get our messages out.”
The UK is Antigua and Barbuda’s second-largest source market of tourists, after the USA. Arrivals to he island nation in the first eight months of this year were around 196,000, up from 174,225 on 2022.
James says demand from the UK for 2024 is “very strong”, particularly for luxury-end products. There is a lot of affinity…we speak the same language, drive on the same side of the road, love cricket and sailing.
“We like to say we are a destination for the discerning because the quality of the product we have is very strong. And we are easy to get to. I always say that you can get up in the UK in the morning and by 14.30 Antigua time be sitting on one of our 365 beaches.”
Cricket will be the focus on the island next June with Antigua and Barbuda one of seven Caribbean destinations hosting the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.
Other reasons for a visit in 2024 include Antigua and Barbuda Wellness Month (January), Antigua Sailing Week (April 27-May 3), Restaurant Week (actually spanning two weeks from May 4-19), and Antigua and Barbuda Art Week (November 27-December 4).
Hotel refurbishments include Hawksbill Resort, which reopened on November 4 under new management by Caribbean Beach Cottage Collection, an Antiguan Hospitality Management Group that also operates Cocos Hotel and Keyonna Beach Resort on Antigua, and Jolly Beach, which will complete restoration of 350 rooms next month (December 2023).
Verandah Resort also reopened as an adults-only resort in mid-November, while the first phase of the 230-rooms Royalton Chic will be unveiled early next year.
New at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda is an exhibit that celebrates the historic visit to space by Antigua and Barbuda’s Keisha Schahaff and Anastasia Mayers on August 10 2023.
The exhibition focuses squarely on the national flag of Antigua and Barbuda, which Schahaff folded tightly and carried in the pocket of her space suit, along with two small vials of Barbuda’s pink sand.
Added James: “For agents with clients looking for a great holiday destination in 2024 that offers almost guaranteed sunshine and some of the most hospitable and loveliest people on this planet, it has to be Antigua and Barbuda!”
And his one must-do tip for visitors? “It has to be the Sunset Party at Shirley Heights Lookout on a Sunday. It is the longest running BBQ Sunday party in the Caribbean and has been drawing crowds for 30 years.
“From the lookout, you gaze down on English Harbour, a UNESCO World Heritage site and where the British fleet anchored in the 1700s.”