By Shermain Bique-Charles
Foreign Affairs Minister EP Chet Greene says efforts to revive the country’s once buoyant tourism sector could prove futile if Antigua and Barbuda fails to achieve herd immunity soon.
Health experts say that equates to at least 80 percent of the population being inoculated.
This week, the government has been hard at work promoting the twin island nation as a prime investment hub as far away as Dubai and the United Kingdom.
“I have to speak to the issue of vaccinations because the trust is, with all these efforts we are making, if we are to have an outbreak or a surge in numbers, then all of it could go to naught,” Greene told Observer from the UK.
The minister is attending the Antigua and Barbuda UK Business Forum, along with other top officials from the local tourism and business sectors.
“Understanding our own best interest dictates that we need to get that critical number of the national population immunised. So, when the flights from British Airways and those from Virgin Atlantic arrive, [there will be no] outbreak of Covid,” he explained.
Greene said residents are looking forward to the revival of the tourist season, which has been the backbone of the country’s economy. However, he said that hope could be dashed if Covid numbers do not continue to drop.
“When we say tourism is everybody’s business, I guess you can now better understand that concept, because we are all awaiting a robust and bumper 2021/2022 season, and the only thing to stop us now is an outbreak of the disease,” he told Observer.
The government, he continued, will continue to work towards revitalising the sector.
“The work has been done, the foundation has been laid. The only thing required is that we as a country understand our own interest in protecting the space from any outbreak of the pandemic, so that we can realise the returns from the investment in promoting the country,” he added.
While in the UK, the team participated in a number of events and meetings, including those with the diaspora.
Antigua and Barbuda’s High Commissioner to the UK Karen Mae-Hill, who organised the business forum, said the team from the twin island state was bombarded with business interests from London.
“We have had lots of interest around high-end developments. Our Citizenship by Investment Programme is a vehicle to facilitate investments and that has generated quite a bit of interest among some of the big firms here in the City of London,” she told Observer.
A representative from the American University of Antigua (AUA) is also part of the delegation that promoted the country as a place to study medicine.
The expansion of the West Indies Oil Company (WIOC) is another component, with Chief Executive Officer Gregory Georges speaking to prospective funders about renewable energy.
“It’s been great just watching the responses and reactions from those who attended the meetings,” Mae-Hill added.
The wide-ranging talks also focused on the real estate, travel and hotel sectors. The team will return home on Friday.
A delegation from Antigua and Barbuda also recently took part in the Expo 2020 Dubai, a six-month long event which showcases countries and their cultures from around the world.