By Aabigayle McIntosh
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism industry is experiencing a significant increase in visitor arrivals, both by air and sea travel.
This marks a stark contrast to the difficult times the industry faced during the pandemic when tourism numbers hit rock bottom.
The year 2023 has been promising for the nation’s tourism industry, with notable successes. However, there was a temporary downturn during the traditionally slow summer season, as the twin island state struggled with a reduction in airlift, particularly from the United Kingdom when Virgin Atlantic reduced its services to Antigua and other islands to just one daily flight.
According to Colin C. James, the Chief Executive Officer of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABHTA), arrivals from the United States and Canada have remained strong, with Canadian arrivals surging by an impressive 118% by the end of August.
Additionally, there is a robust airlift coming from various Caribbean islands through different regional carriers.
“We had done a lot of promotions during Carnival and that has really helped to boost our Caribbean numbers.
“So, it has been a mixed bag, but largely positive, the numbers are tilting in the right direction, and at the end of August we are definitely up to where we were at the end of August next year and looking closely to close that gap at the end of the year,” James said.
In his statement, he mentioned that November is a crucial month when everyone is competing for success at the end of the year.
He also highlighted the challenges faced by tourism executives in securing airlifts from European countries. Due to the pandemic, many pilots switched to other airlines, leading to a severe shortage of manpower and aircraft.
“Trying to get back to pre-COVID figures that’s what everyone is focused on ensuring that we have the adequate airlift to support the huge marketing efforts that we have been doing.
The head of tourism also discussed the services provided by the United States, which is one of the country’s most important source markets.
Starting from November, there will be a second daily flight from Miami provided by American Airlines, and from December 23rd, United Airlines will operate a daily service.
“We are also in discussions with some other airlines but we cannot make any announcement as yet. The good news is from the region we now have Silver Airways which will be serving the destination from November 16th with four weekly flights,” James added.