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The binary island nation spent the better part of two days finalizing its tourism plan for what it calls Vision 2032, a people-centric idea that was developed through tourism product study and consultation with stakeholders, including industry. leaders, tour operators and the general public.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Tourism hosted a first-of-its-kind two-day roundtable to introduce Antigua and Barbuda to a variety of industry players, including hoteliers, airlines, media and travel companies.
Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez said tourism is one of the few exports in which the country is globally competitive and has been a leading provider of jobs and opportunities for much of its history as an independent nation.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of Antigua and Barbuda’s bread and butter.
“In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented damage to the tourism industry. The total number of visitors decreased by more than 60 percent. The hotel and restaurant sector, closely linked to tourism, is estimated to have shrunk by more than half,” he said.
And while the industry’s recovery began in 2021 with a 35 percent increase in guest arrivals and a 39 percent rise in visitor spending, Fernandez said it has yet to recover to the level of production recorded in 2019.
“Consequently, we cannot leave our future in the tourism industry to chance. In this regard, we are strengthening our connection with you, our stakeholders in the tourism industry, with the aim of collaborating to create a modern world-class tourism industry,” he said.
He said that after consulting with stakeholders, it was clear that the vision for Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism industry should be characterized by sustainability, authentic experiences, benefits for Antigua and Barbudans, a strong legislative and policy framework, and highly skilled forced ploughing.
“We must and will pursue an aggressive education and outreach campaign to increase the knowledge and awareness of the people of Antigua and Barbuda about the tourism industry and its importance to our economy and their livelihoods, and the role they can play in achieving “Visions 2032”. Now. “At this turning point, it is time to rebuild the tourism industry that we envision for the next 10 years and beyond,” he said.
Meanwhile, Colin James, chief executive officer of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, said that despite setbacks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is hope for the industry.
“We have really gone through the worst of the pandemic. I see growth and stability and the numbers show it. We had a wonderful first four months. Now we see that the UK is in positive territory. There is also the UK…