By Latrishka Thomas
The cancellation of reservations due to the recent lockdown in the UK — due to increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections — did not come as a surprise to many in the hotel industry in Antigua and Barbuda and across the region.
Vice Chair of the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association (ABHTA) Alex deBrito while speaking on Observer’s Big Issues programme on Sunday, shared that they have been aware that “things could change at any time” and are therefore “waiting to see what is going to happen in the next week or two to adjust again”.
A new month-long lockdown for England could have serious negative implications for the country’s already struggling tourism sector, says Tourism Minister Charles Max Fernandez.
Last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a month-long lockdown of that country, which is due to end on December 2.
As a result, British Airways has suspended flights to Antigua and Barbuda causing occupancy at hotels in the twin island to drop from about 55 or 60 percent to 25 or 30 percent in the last 48 hours, deBrito revealed.
He stated that since Covid, the number of hotel workers has been cut in half and as of Saturday, November 7, 32 hotels are open on island but with the dynamic nature of the season, “it doesn’t mean that all will stay open, but they all try to be open”.
He explained that it was quite costly for these hotels to reopen and so staying open is paramount.
“We need to keep the destination open in order to inspire confidence in the market,” De Brito stated.
However, “on the positive side we also experienced some guests or tourists who are trying to extend their stay and stay longer,” he shared.
He also noted that the US market is responding positively to travel options in the Caribbean especially since Virgin Atlantic will continue flying.
“It’s helping us to maintain our hotels open,” he said.
“[But] we are now starting to rethink the process with the US market,” he said referring to people’s apprehension to travel as a result of the recent election. De Brito concluded that each hotel would have to analyze its unique situation and determine whether it makes sense to stay open.