Honourable Asot Michael Minister of Tourism, Economic Development & Energy Government of Antigua and Barbuda Travel Trade Media Remarks
Good morning and welcome...
First of all, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all of you for meeting with us.
I know how busy you are so I greatly appreciate your participation.
We are also pleased to share that in Antigua and Barbudahas enjoyed a robust growth in Canadian visitor arrivals for each of the past three years of well over 20%.
I believe we have been a good market for you as we provide Canadians with an idyllic escape from the harsh winters you endure.
On that score, I register my great admiration of all Canadians. You are indeed a strong people to experience freezing winters and still be such warm-hearted people.
I asked for this meeting to review and explore the possibility of a closer and more mutually profitable relationship between us.
Tourism is a key pillar of our economy and it has great potential for further expansion without ruining the environmental quality of our twin-islands.
Our exquisite beaches, as many of you know, are our premier attraction and, thankfully, with more than 365 of them, we can offer one for each day of the year.
There is also space for increasing and upgrading the number and quality of attractions on both islands in order to enhance the experience of visitors. This includes developing our historic and cultural sites as well as establishing more restaurants and night time entertainment.
In this connection, although my government has been in office for only two months, we have embarked upon a number of initiatives to increase the number of hotel rooms; to establish new facilities; and to increase the marketing of our islands in many countries including Canada.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested by my Government in enlarging capacity, ensuring a more modern infrastructure, and improving the visitor experience.
Several new hotels will be built, enlarging the number of available rooms and beds; and several existing properties will be refurbished and placed back into the stream of commerce.
The Royal Antiguan will be sold shortly, and an additional hotel constructed on the property. The Hodges Bay Club will also be resuscitated. The Half Moon Bay Hotel has attracted new interests with a great likelihood of it being resurrected.
The St. John's Harbour and the lands encasing the inland sea will be transformed. A boardwalk, shops, restaurants, and a hotel are to be constructed on the seafront making the area far more picturesque and economically vibrant. At Nelson's Dockyard, my Government intends to create a New Economic Development Zone.
That newly-legislated Zone will encourage very low-density winter housing, not unlike the successful yacht and boat basin, witnessed by members of my Government, around the island of Sardinia, close to the Italian mainland.
We have signed a memorandum of understanding with China's Yida International Investment Antigua for a US$2 Billion resort development that includes the construction of five-star hotels, a golf course, 1,300 residential units, shopping facilities, a modern conference center and a casino.
We will also early in the new-year break ground for a 400 room “Beaches” Resort as part of our expansion with the Sandals Resorts International group.
Sandals already does considerable marketing in Canada and its sales and reservations machinery will immediately offer the new resort on Antigua as soon as it is opened.
These new facilities will create new business and new opportunities for everyone in the travel trade in Canada, since with more rooms on Antigua and more demand by Canadians who will be targets of increased marketing, passengers will turn to agencies such as yours to get to Antigua.
In anticipation of more rooms and more people desirous of coming into Antigua, we are pleased that our new Airport terminal, which will be the largest in the Eastern Caribbean, will be opened by March of 2015. The Airport will be equipped with Jet Bridges, Multiple VIP lounges, and high-end duty free shops.
The new terminal will greatly improve the visitor experience, with the potential for us to double the current capacity of visitors that pass through our international Airport.
It will offer airlines much improved facilities with the emphasis on efficiency and swift communication.
We are determined to continuously improve and upgrade the tourism infrastructure and facilities to make your service to your passengers better.
We are confident that with all the projects we now have in place, and more of them at the negotiating stage, the number of visitors to Antigua and Barbuda will increase steadily, including from Canada.
But, we realize that to ensure that Antigua and Barbuda remains competitive we need to grow the visitor arrivals from Canada over the next five years.
We know that a stronger presence in the marketplace is the foundation for increasing our Canadian visitor arrivals so you will be seeing more of us and also hearing more from us.
We want to begin a dialogue with all of you to work out how,we can be helpful to you in writing about Antigua and Barbuda.
I want to assure you of my readiness to see you at any time you consider it appropriate.
My door will be open.
I do appreciate your time and I welcome your thoughts and ideas.
You will find me an avid listener, keen to co-operated and not to dither and delay.