Tourism bosses unveil their plans for the next decade

Tourism is one of the few exports in which the country is globally competitive

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By Shermain Bique-Charles

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The twin island nation has spent the better part of two days fine-tuning its tourism plan for what it calls ‘Vision 2032’ – a people-centred idea that was developed through a tourism product survey and in consultation with stakeholders including industry leaders, tourism operators and general public.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Tourism launched a two-day “Destination Roundtable”, the first of its kind, to introduce Antigua and Barbuda to various sectors of the industry, including hoteliers, airlines, media and tour operators.

Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez said tourism is one of the few exports in which the country is globally competitive, and has been the main provider of jobs and opportunities for a much of its history as an independent nation.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of bread and butter from Antigua and Barbuda.

“In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented destruction to the tourism industry. The total number of visitor arrivals has decreased by more than 60%. The hotel and catering sector, which is closely associated with tourism, is estimated to have contracted by more than half,” he said.

And while the industry’s recovery began in 2021 with a 35% increase in staycation arrivals and a 39% increase in visitor spending, Fernandez said he has yet to return to production levels. registered in 2019.

“Therefore, we cannot leave our future in the tourism industry to chance. In this regard, we have strengthened communication with you, our tourism stakeholders, with the aim of collaborating to achieve a modern and world-class tourism industry,” he said.

He said that after consultation with stakeholders, it was clear that the vision for Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism industry should be characterized by sustainability, authentic experiences, benefits for Antiguans and Barbudians, a solid legislative and policy framework and highly qualified personnel. Workforce.

“We must and will embark on an aggressive education and awareness campaign aimed at improving the knowledge and awareness of Antiguans and Barbudians about the tourism industry and its importance to our economy and their livelihoods – and the role they can play in achieving Vision 2032. Now, at this juncture, it is time to rebuild the tourism industry that we envision over the next 10 years and beyond,” he said. he declares.

Meanwhile, Colin James, chief executive of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, said despite the setbacks of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is hope for the industry.

“We really had the worst with the pandemic. I see growth and stability and the numbers show it. We’ve had a remarkable first four months. We now see the UK in totally positive territory. There are more arrivals in the UK now than in 2019 right now,” James told the Observer.

Antigua and Barbuda has also received praise from Dominica, whose Tourism Minister Denise Charles told Observer that Antigua is an example for several islands.

“We learned from the Antigua experience. They are doing very well. We admired Antigua. I must commend Antigua for their health protocols during Covid. It was rigorous but safe. We are seeing the results in the UK… travelers are coming,” she said.

She added that there is room for small islands to work together to ensure everyone reaps the benefits of the tourism sector.

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