The success of Antigua and Barbuda

By | Category: Travel destinations

Over the last seventeen months or so every country that has been hit by the pandemic has suffered from a staggering drop in international visitor numbers.

Antiguan beach
Antigua – the tourist authority has announced higher visitor numbers than even 2019. Image – ABTA

But the Caribbean state of Antigua and Barbuda has not suffered a staggering drop. Or even a slight drop.
It saw a rise in international tourism numbers. But the rise was against 2019 visitor numbers not just 2020
The numbers might not have large but the country saw growth, an achievement that will be envied by many other countries.

During a string of briefings organised by the Caribbean Tourism Organization this week, Colin James – the boss of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourist Authority revealed that in both July and August this year, international tourist numbers were above those in the same months in 2019.

In July the numbers were up by about 370 and 960 in August. The figures might not sound high to you but in percentage terms it amounted to a rise of about 1.6% and 5.4%.

For any nation the figures were good; compared to just about every other nation, the August figure was significant and made other destinations wonder how they achieved this feat.

With the success in handling COVID-19 came results.

From the UK alone, there are twelve flights a week to Antigua and Barbuda as British airlines and tour operators sell more holidays to the country. A fifth cruise terminal has been prepared for the ever-increasing interest in the country, cabable of taking the largest of cruise ships.

What had the country done so that the UK, for example, was responsible for sending its highest ever number of visitors?

It had insituted strong measures to control the virus. From the first of October all arriving passengers by air must have a negative COVID-I9 RT-PCR test for SARSCoV-2 using a nasonharrnseal or oropharynseol swab taken within four davs of their flight and this includes transiting passengers. Rapid antigen tests and home tests are NOT accepted for entry.
When you tour the islands whether you have arrived for a holiday or are touring from a cruise ship you will travel in a bubble so that there is far less of a chance of either you catching the virus or passing it on to inhabitants.

The cruise ships return. This was Celebrity Equinox in Antigua last month. Image – ABTA

With these precautions in place, Antigua and Barbuda, in its promotional messages, has emphasised “Your Space in the Sun” highlighting open spaces, uncrowded beaches and other areas, cleanliness and a calmness on the islands.

It also helps to have a sense of humour. For example, social distancing is calculated in terms of cocoanuts. You should leave a space of nine-and-a-half cocoanuts between you and the next person!

Other incentives include a reduction in taxes and that the Robert de Niro restaurant, NOBU, has recently opened on Barbuda. That helps attract some of the wealthier travellers to the Caribbean.

But does the country have to have incentives when the islands have so much to attract tourists?

It looks like being a bumper winter sun season for the islands.

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