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By Carlena Knight

In order to boost regional travel – and help the Caribbean recover financially from Covid-19 – local hotels are being encouraged to offer special deals to Caribbean travellers.

This advice came from Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez who posited that the regional market is one of the fastest growing markets for Antigua and Barbuda, and is paramount for the resurgence of not only the tourism sector, but the economy on a whole.

“We found that regional travel or the Caribbean source market was one of the fastest growing source markets for us in Antigua and Barbuda,” he told Observer radio.

“As a result of that, we engaged the hotel association from very early on for them to look to promote a Caricom rate to encourage that kind of tourist coming up from the islands because again, the English-speaking Caribbean, as you know, has been very low in terms of Covid spread.”

Fernandez admitted that the market has been affected, but is certain that with this new approach Antigua and Barbuda would stand to benefit significantly.

“I think regional travel has been affected mainly because of the fact that a lot of Caribbean airports were closed and are still closed. The other thing I will say, though, is a lot of the Caribbean people normally would travel for summer to North America, to the UK, Canada and so on, but they may think twice now but still want to get out and if we can offer them some deals here in Antigua and Barbuda with our hotels, I think that would be an opportunity for us,” Fernandez said on Observer AM.

Regarding diversifying the economy, the minister, who is also responsible for economic development, agrees with earlier reports that this is a great time to look at new endeavours. He says however, that there are several factors which may plague such ventures.

“It’s very, very difficult bearing in mind the economy of scale. We have a population of 100,000 so if you start to manufacture here, it’s going to be difficult even to our local markets to satisfy what will make it profitable, much less to compete with countries like Trinidad that has oil and their utility price is a lot lower,” Fernandez said.

He also revealed that he held talks with American Airlines to set up an aviation maintenance hangar in Antigua a year ago but said the suggestion was turned down because “it was more practical and economical for them to operate in Miami”.

He said the government was considering other areas for diversifying the local economy.

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