The twin-island of Antigua and Barbuda is synonymous with romance and adventure. Situated in the middle of the Caribbean archipelago, Antigua and Barbuda is affectionately known as the, “Heart of the Caribbean” – both for its central location and for its unparalleled warmth and charm.
According to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Antigua and Barbuda is also the largest economy in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), with the driving force of the islands’ economy being tourism. For the past two years, regional travel has played a major part in the tourism growth being experienced by the destination. Caribbean visitor arrivals exhibited significant year-on-year growth having grown by +11.3 percent to 33,898 at the end of December 2016 – up from 30,460 in December of 2015.
This recent growth in visitor arrivals has positioned the Caribbean as the third largest tourism source market for Antigua and Barbuda. The United States, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean are now the three main source markets for Antigua and Barbuda. Arrivals from the United States contributed to 35 percent of the total number of visitors in QTR4 2016. While, the United Kingdom accounted for 34 percent and the Caribbean 12 percent. This growing figure does not include the many Caribbean visitors who also travel to the destination via cruises for a welcome day trip.
This growth in Caribbean arrivals can be directly attributed to an increased push by the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) in regional marketing, promotions and airlift connectivity. Due to its strategic location, Antigua and Barbuda has also long become a sub-regional hub for international travel, and is a well-established gateway to the Eastern Caribbean and home of the regional airline, LIAT. With the new V.C Bird International Airport being one of the largest and most modern airport facilities in the Caribbean, there is still potential for Antigua and Barbuda to increase its connectivity throughout the Caribbean.
The obvious question to be answered is, “What is there to do for Caribbean travellers on a visit to Antigua and Barbuda?” The answer is simple – plenty! Antigua and Barbuda boasts some of the world’s most spectacular coastline, with their 365 white and pink sand beaches, and exotic scenic vistas, which have made these islands the Caribbean’s Most Romantic Destination for two years in a row.
Made legendary for its party-style cricket at the Antigua Recreation Grounds, and exhilarating sailing calendar, a new generation of events and good times has once again breathed life into the islands. Antigua’s Carnival – The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival is the biggest event on the calendar, and has the tongues wagging of all who have participated.
There’s no excuse imaginable for missing Antigua’s Carnival; there are four months to choose from, so take your pick! Carnival in Antigua is truly an entire season of its own. As North America has its summer season, so too do we have Carnival.
The season starts with the fetes! It is said that there are statistically 10 fetes to suit everyone’s taste during Antigua’s Carnival season, as well as a beach for every day of the year. And both can be proven!
Late May is when it all begins, with numerous events to choose from that lead up to Carnival. Many loyalists attend to hear the newest tunes of the season and get themselves into the Carnival spirit. The mega-events on the fete calendar draw huge crowds of ‘bacchanalists’, whose main objectives during Carnival are to come, to party, and to conquer.
Many travel from the neighbouring islands for weekend getaways in June and July, way before the official start of Carnival, as there is always something to do at any given point of the season. The production quality at events blows everyone’s mind, where the aim is to make every fete bigger and better than the year before. Every soca hit-maker imaginable graces the stage in Antigua, melting the crowd into a puree, who have waited in great anticipation for their turn to fete. Local artistes bring energy and bliss to the spirits of fete-goers, and the feeling of euphoria is contagious as your head spins with joy; there’s no better place to be than Antigua at this time of year!
This year is the 60th Anniversary of Antigua and Barbuda’s Carnival, The Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival. For the milestone year, you can look forward to an explosion of colour, music and artistry sure to excite and entertain.
SAVE THE DATE – 28 July – 8 August: Party lovers will embrace the nightly entertainment, pageantry, and costume parades as this energetic festival climaxes on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. For more information visit: www.antiguacarnival.com
And When You Come Here’s a List of 5 Souvenir Items To Take Home From Antigua & Barbuda:
Rum: The aged 5-year-old English Harbour Rum is the rum of choice, on a night out in Antigua. Re-live your experience of the famed Shirley Heights Sunset BBQ Party, and the English Harbour views, by mixing up your very own fruity rum cocktail.
Hot Sauce: A well-loved local product, the island’s most popular hot sauce is the spicy Susie’s Hot Sauce, founded by Susie Tonge in the 1960s, and now operated by her daughter. This is a must-try for anyone visiting the island and can be found in any supermarket or restaurant.
Pink Sand: The unique pink sand glistening from Barbuda’s pristine beaches will not be easily forgotten, but just in case, purchase a bottle of the pink sand as a souvenir of the visit.
Hand-made products: St. John’s is filled with vendors selling a multitude of items from souvenir t-shirts to beaded jewellery, island rum and more. Search out hand-crafted items, such as
the traditional Warri boards, straw products, hand-painted shak-shaks and wood carvings.
Local Art: Art galleries dot the island, with each gallery featuring artwork by residents of Antigua and Barbuda. Don’t leave Antigua and Barbuda without collecting your very own signature piece reflecting the beauty of the islands. •