Antigua tourism minister says it is all about lift


(eTN) – As a former business executive and sports professional, seeing the completion of a successful deal is a sure way to get a smile from the Hon. John Maginley, the Minister of Antigua tourism. On December 14, 2010, Maginley presented a very happy face at the inauguration of new direct flights from JFK to Antigua on Caribbean Airlines.

At a recent press conference, Maginley pointed out that “airlift is vital” to the sustainability of Antigua tourism. Without airline support an island can have white sandy beaches and blue-green water, but seat scarcity and high ticket prices turns any destination into just another pretty brochure.

Been There, Done That
Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is not a new player on the Caribbean transportation scene, but rather a reincarnation of BWIA (British West Indies Airwaves). On September 8, 2006, BWIA and union members were unable to resolve differences resulting in the closure of the airline, resulting in the launching of CAL a few days later in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The demise of BWIA meant that one less airline was touching down in Antigua, and without bodies in airline seats it is impossible to fill hotel rooms.

Chinese Infrastructure Investment
Up to now, lift to Antigua has been provided by American Airlines from Miami, Continental Airlines from Newark, plus service on Delta from JFK and Atlanta, with Canject offering charter flight service from Toronto and Montreal. Jet Blue executives, Chad Meyerson, Director of Global Sales, and Scott Laurence, VP/Planning, recently visited Antigua to discuss adding flights to/from Antigua, but according to Maginley no deal has been finalized.

It is possible that this spark of interest in Antigua has been prompted by the likelihood of a new Chinese funded airport terminal with construction scheduled to start the first part of 2011. It will be funded by a US$45M loan from the Exim Bank in China.

The Chinese are also providing funding for the construction of a power plant providing 30 megawatts of power to the Authority’s Electric Grid offering a steady electricity supply to the country. Additional PRC investment includes the building of a secondary school for 750 students and the upgrading of community sports complexes throughout the nation.

2011: Year for Tourism
The Governor General, Her Excellency Dame Louise Lake-Tack GCMG, DNG, DSt.J in her Throne Speech of December 16, 2010, declared 2011 as the “Year for Tourism” stating that “Tourism will be the engine for Antigua and Barbuda’s economic growth” and has set the reaching of one million tourists as the marketing objective.

In keeping with this notion, the Antigua and Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute (with articulation agreements with Johnson Wales), will be upgraded into the OECS Centre of Excellence for Tourism and Education. This Euro 6-million project will include the construction of a 20-bedroom training hotel and additional classrooms. Strategic partners for Certificate and Diploma programs are being developed in cooperation with New York’s Monroe College and the University of the West Indies in Barbados.

Foreign Policy
Dame Louise Lake-Tac indicated in her Throne Speech stated that she is interested in “…enhancing special ties with Venezuela and countries in the Middle East…” and ”…seeks to play a greater role in international efforts aimed at tackling global climate change, sustainable development, international development, and poverty alleviation.”

Antigua works closely with many nations. Countries providing educational opportunities for young Antiguans include institutions from the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Cuba, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Kingdom of Morocco, Malaysia, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Singapore, Israel, and the Russian Federation, as well as the American University of Antigua Schools of Medicine and Nursing, and the Antigua and Barbuda International Institute of Technology. The Republic of Cuba also provides medical assistance.

Start with the Sand
Current marketing campaigns seeking to attract the fickle tourist, encourage the exploration of Antigua and Barbuda that exceeds white sandy beaches and blue green water, which is really unfortunate for the best part of the destinations are exactly that – the fabulous Caribbean Sea that is a joy for the swimmer and snorkeling hobbyist, along with white sandy beaches that easily lend themselves to children’s desires to build castles and runners on holiday who prefer white and pink sand over concrete jungles.

For the traveling connoisseur seeking a selective introduction to the locale:

– Reserve aerial transportation to/from Barbuda with Caribbean Helicopters for the brief trip to Barbuda (plan on approximately 20 minutes).

– Schedule at least 4 nights at the 5-star Barbuda Lighthouse Bay, professionally staffed by Mohammed M. Sallah (GM) and Terrence Litton (AGM). With only 9 suites, privileged guests experience Caribbean luxury. Opened in 2008 by owners Mike Branker, Don Dillon, and Patrick Kerrigan, plans for 2011 include the development of 24 villas in the US multi-million-dollar category.

– Sign-on with Adventure Antigua to explore the Caribbean Sea in pursuit of snorkeling, a water/swimming tour of remote islands, and hiking nature trails at Great Bird Island.

With Hon. John Maginley at the helm of tourism, it is very possible that visitors to Antigua will find increased opportunities for wellness and sports activities, as he integrates his passion for cricket and tennis into the tourism product. For additional information: www.antigua-barbuda.or (268-462-0651).