Mélange Travel & Lifestyle Magazine July 2018 - Page 32

Tell us about Barbuda, post-hurricane. Has the rebuilding started? What are your country’s plans with regard to Barbuda’s future within the tourism picture? Recovery efforts have been steadily progressing. We have seen the restoration of utilities, of hundreds of homes and a return of a third of the 1800 residents to the island since it was totally evacuated immediately after Hurricane Irma. Tourism Sector has also demonstrated resilience. The beaches are still in fine fettle, the frigate birds are returning to the sanctuary, and now tour operators have resumed day tours to Barbuda via boat and helicopter. We are even more pleased to announce that the Barbuda Belle property will open its doors in November of this year. The Government’s intention is to rebuild a better Barbuda, that is fully reliant on renewable energy sources and transform the island into a totally green island. What are your short-term goals for the Antigua & Barbuda tourism sector? Antigua and Barbuda eyes record-setting growth in tourist arrivals, as the country welcomes major developments within the Cruise and Hotel sectors. In fact, for 2021, the destination is poised to step into a new statistical territory with an anticipated 300,000 stayover visitors, and 1,000,000 cruise ships passengers by the end of that year. The projection comes on the heels of announced developments across the 2 sectors, which will seek to enhance our product offering. Are there any new resort developments on the horizon for Antigua? Our Hotel Sector is set to benefit from an onslaught of hotel projects to come on stream in a short order. From the highly acclaimed and ultra-luxurious brands like; the Waldorf Astoria, Rosewood Resorts at Halfmoon Bay, Paradise Found – Barbuda, to the very familiar names like Marriott Hotels, and Best Western Premiere. The completion of the two Royalton properties at Deep Bay will be a game changer. This brand comes under the development of Canadian Travel conglomerate giant Sunwing which has partnerships with both Sunwing and TUI Airlines. We can expect an increase in airlift from this venture, as the travel group will commit to filling their properties. The aforementioned properties will collectively double the room stock on the market in the next three to four years. What would you say are the challenges your country faces, if any, to its tourism growth? The impact of climate change is a real challenge for the entire region. The Caribbean was presented with significant setbacks in 2017, and our country was no exception. Hurricanes Irma and Maria severely impacted the Caribbean’s Tourism Industry in ways like never before. After Barbuda was directly impacted by Hurricane Irma, the perpetual misconception that both islands were destroyed created uncertainties in the market, and this led to many cancelled trips. As a new hurricane season looms, travelers are giving a cautious eye on the season with hesitation to travel the Eastern Caribbean for the month of September. We have redoubled our efforts to market the islands even more to encourage visitors during this time of the year. Do you have a tourism investment strategy that you can share with us? The aim is to attract mid to upper end of the resort market with signature brands that will assist in marketing the island and help us to attract additional airlift to support the industry. What are some of the special events and festivals held throughout the year that you will like to highlight and by so doing encourage our readers to travel to the islands to experience? Our robust events calendar ensures that visitors will find something fun to enjoy at any giving period of the year. An intense sailing season kicks off the year with series of regattas. From the Super Yacht Challenge, and RORC Caribbean 600, to the Caribbean’s oldest most prestigious regatta – Antigua Sailing Week – which attracts hundreds of global sailors who compete in a bid to be crowned the ‘King of the Seas.’ This is followed up by ‘the Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival’ – Antigua Carnival, which is a celebration of emancipation from slavery. There are also other notable cultural events such as the Mango and Pineapple Festival, Annual Seafood Festival and Independence Day Food Fair, and Sport Fishing Tournament. What message do you have for people considering Antigua & Barbuda as their next vacation destination? If you’re looking for the perfect Caribbean getaway, that you can get to same-day from Europe and North America; where you can enjoy spectacular beaches, great cuisine and fun-packed adventures, with some of the most hospitable and charming people on the planet, then your next vacation should be in Antigua and Barbuda.