By Carlena Knight
Tourism officials are predicting a “promising” recovery for the sector now the country has reopened its borders to international travellers.
“When you move from zero to anything is promising, and I think Sandals indicated that of next month they will be up to 50 percent. Bear in mind, we are in the slow season where a number of hotels would normally close, so all is not lost and we are hoping this kind of trend continues,” Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez told Observer radio.
“The first flight came in and because of that 365 persons returned to work and it’s important to note that, because as more flights come you are going to find more hotels opening,” he said.
Although he couldn’t estimate how many tourists will be visiting Antigua in the near future, he said several airlines have already made bookings for the summer months.
“British Airlines is scheduling for mid-July [and] again all of these can change. Virgin Atlantic is looking at August, Caribbean Airlines the first week in July, and LIAT has said the end of the month.
“We also have Jet Blue’s first flight for July 2, so there is going to be a lot of traffic coming in and this is why I think it is a good idea for us to start with a low count and get everything right so by the time our flights start building next month, we will have everything down pat.”
Air Canada, however, has not confirmed any return dates and according to Fernandez, “we’re actually observing how the reopening happened and how the various protocols that were put in place were handled by other flights. They are in talks with the tourism officials here to set a date”.
The parliamentary representative for St John’s Rural North also spoke briefly about the expected number of bookings for American Airlines for June. He said if protocols are observed and the country doesn’t receive any bad press, numbers are expected to increase.
There have been approximately 150 passengers on each American Airlines flight into the country so far. This week is expected to see a dip until numbers start to pick up again by the middle of the month, Fernandez explained.
“These are bookings, so you would find that now the airport is open the numbers could more than likely increase. Once the airport is open, there’s commercial traffic, the airlines are travelling, and we have no real negative feedback coming out, you will find more bookings,” the minister added.