The challenges of tourism are as complex as they are diverse. One of the challenges that we have been working assiduously to address is the lack of enough saleable rooms to continue the growth that we have been experiencing.
To that end, 2016 saw several new hotels break ground.
We have the Coconut Beach Resort by Marriott which will comprise of 40 high-end condominiums and a 70 room five-star hotel.
Additionally, there was the LABAHIA Hotel Resort & Condominiums; this is a US$52M project between the Adams Investment Management (Antigua) Ltd., and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda involving 120 single and double bedroom condominiums.
In addition, with the Callaloo Cay Project, we have in place a Memorandum of Agreement that effectively allowed work to begin on the adjacent Public National Park for residents.
Indeed, work over at the Hodges Bay Resort and Spa continues and is quickly nearing completion. This will see this new USD$50 million property.
We continue to aggressively pursue a strategy of attracting new hotel investment to revolutionise the standards and quality of hotels on islands.
We are starting the year as the government intends us to continue – by getting projects off the ground that will accelerate economic growth, increase employment and earn new money.
The government is keenly aware that there is great anticipation amongst our people for increased and accelerated economic activity.
We are determined to improve Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism performance, and from the beginning, we were aware that airlift would require our immediate attention. We have since been effectively leveraging our new state of the art airport facility and promoting the many options available via multiple airlines for visitors to travel same day to our country. We are delighted that our efforts are delivering benefits and we experienced an increase in airlift to our country in 2016.
Antigua and Barbuda has maintained excellent airlift from all our major source markets – USA, UK, Europe, Canada and the Caribbean Region. The number of flights from the US increased by over nine percent, particularly because of the entry of JetBlue into the market and American Airlines maintaining a service out of New York for the months of September and October compared to the same period in 2015 when the service was withdrawn.
The weekly charter out of Italy – Alitalia/Eden Viaggi operated for a six-month period during the 2015/2016 season but will be operating for a 10-month period during the 2016/2017 season. For the year 2016 we have experienced a whopping 22 percent growth out of the Italian market and an overall five percent growth out of the European market.
All in all, 2016 was a good year, and so there is much light being shed on 2017 with our people being able to get hundreds of jobs and Antigua and Barbuda welcoming thousands more additional short and long-stay visitors. •