Honourable Asot Michael, Minister of Tourism, Economic Development & Energy, Government of Antigua and Barbuda, WTM Partners Appreciation Dinner ADDRESS to Invitees
Good evening ladies and gentlemen….
First of all, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all of you for joining us for dinner this evening.
I always enjoy being in the United Kingdom and had the privilege of being here a month ago to participate in the Lord Taverner’s fund raising dinner held in honor of the legendary cricketer, our own Sir Vivian Richards. Sir Viv and I were doing our small part in raising over £100,000.00 for charities in the United Kingdom and over £25,000 to help with the restoration of our own St. John’s Cathedral in Antigua.
I share this with you as one way of acknowledging that over the decades the people of the United Kingdom and the people of Antigua and Barbuda have enjoyed a mutually rewarding relationship. Our country – – – although an independent nation – – – is still as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and as a constitutional monarchy we still have her majesty The Queen as Sovereign.
Indeed, the centuries of strong cultural ties with the United Kingdom are evident in our mature Westminster style parliamentary system and the vibrant democracy that we enjoy in Antigua and Barbuda today.
Besides, we have a large number of our nationals – – – like so many other people from the Caribbean – – – that have migrated to Britain, and prospered here. They have made a lasting and tangible contribution to the socio-economic development of the United Kingdom, and so our relationship with the United Kingdom runs long and deep.
We are also pleased to share that – – – thanks to you – – – in Antigua and Barbuda we have enjoyed a robust growth of visitors from the United Kingdom that have holidayed with us.
I can happily report that we have witnessed considerable growth in visitors to Antigua and Barbuda from both the UK … and Europe. Visitor air arrivals were 245K in 2013 and at the end of June 2014, our total air arrivals were already at 138,317 —- a +7% increase. By the end of September, which is our slowest month of the year, visitor air arrivals from Europe overall were also up 3.8% with an increase of 10% from Germany and 39% increase from France .
The United Kingdom is in fact the best performing market for overseas air arrivals so far this year. This progress gives us confidence that we are on target for double-digit growth by year-end and for that my friends we are indeed grateful.
And we continue to do our part in making Antigua and Barbuda easy for you to sell. I’m proud to remind that in 2013 Antigua and Barbuda was named the ‘Best Honeymoon Destination’ at the prestigious World Travel Awards.
For the 2014 World Travel Awards we have been again been nominated by members of the travel trade in several categories… as
The Caribbean’s Leading Beach Destination;
The Caribbean’s Leading Destination;
The Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination and
The Caribbean’s Leading Tourist Board.
These nominations by our peers is indeed satisfying but even more pleasing is that the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority has won the prestigious Travel Agents Choice Award from Travel Uni – – – that’s the award winning travel trade training provider – – – for the ‘Best of the Rest” Travel Uni Training Program’ in support of our online training course for UK travel agents.
I am particularly proud of this achievement because Travel Uni is the only travel industry award that is nominated and voted on exclusively by U.K. travel retailers. For us this demonstrates the knowledge the UK travel trade has of Antigua and Barbuda and your confidence in selling our product.
Yours is a critically important source market for our visitors so, on behalf of the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda I thank you for voting for us in this competition. It is with your help that we have been able to get our product in front of the traveling public and in increasing our visitor arrivals from the United Kingdom.
I also want to use this opportunity to personally assure you that our government is exploring the possibility of a closer and more mutually profitable relationship with all our travel partners – – – our travel agents, our tour operators, and the airlines serving Antigua and Barbuda – – – our partnership with you is vital to ensure that we increase our share of market in the United Kingdom.
In the spirit of that partnership I’d like you to know that tourism is our main engine of growth and as the Minister with the responsibility of the Tourism portfolio, I am charged with ensuring that tourism increases employment for our nationals, earns more foreign exchange, provides revenue for our government and raise the national income. It will be hard work but be assured that we are ready.
I’m pleased to tell you that since coming to office some sixteen weeks ago our Prime Minister 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.
I am pleased to also let you know that we will be opening a brand new Airport terminal, which will be the largest in the Eastern Caribbean by March of 2015. This 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.
Early in the new-year we will also break ground for a 400 room “Beaches” Resort as part of our expansion with the Sandals Resorts International group.
With the imminent opening of our new airport terminal and with hotel projects on the horizon, we are courting you to increase your Antigua room allotment. This would be ideal in propelling demand for the building momentum of resort properties that we are enjoying.
I want you to know that we recognize that to ensure that Antigua and Barbuda remains competitive we need to increase the visitor arrivals from the United Kingdom over the next five years. We are therefore here this evening to thank you for your past support …. and to seek your support in reaching this goal.
We know a stronger Antigua and Barbuda presence in this marketplace is the foundation for increasing visitor arrivals so you will be seeing more of us – – – and also hearing more from us – – – as we work with you to promote and sell holidays to our twin islands.
In closing I’d like to remind you of the words of your own Sir Winston Churchill who said, “It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”
It is with Sir Winston’s words in mind that we are here to continue the dialogue with you as we chart the development of a sustainable tourism plan – – – and to succeed at doing what is necessary to make Antigua and Barbuda the easiest and most profitable place for you to sell. We look forward to continuing to work with you in this regard.
Thank you for your time and for so graciously accepting our invitation this evening.
However most importantly we thank you for all the clients you send to Antigua and Barbuda.
We look forward to welcoming them and we promise that they will experience first-hand our warm hospitality and the unique charm of an unforgettable Caribbean Holiday.