By Neto Baptiste
A lack of proper facilities is one of the main issues affecting the country’s sports tourism offerings, and until the problem is fixed, Antigua and Barbuda will not be able to reach its true potential as a training and rehabilitation destination for professional teams and athletes.
This is the view of sports tourism officer with the Ministry of Tourism, Karen Joseph, who said the body has been working on a plan of action but added that poor sporting infrastructure is often the Achilles heel of any talks.
“We have a plan in place, and we are working on certain aspects of it in terms of sports tourism, and it has to be a linkage between Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Tourism, and for us to work together we have to recognise where we are and where we need to go. The dying need for us in Antigua where sports tourism is concerned is a lack of proper facilities, and until we get that fixed in a proper way, then it doesn’t make sense for us to be marketing Antigua where sports tourism is concerned and not having the proper facilities, and that’s where we need to look at first,” she said.
Joseph, who is also president of the Antigua and Barbuda Netball Association (ABNA), and a former national player, said the potential to earn from the sports tourism industry is real and that Antigua and Barbuda could be a prime destination in the market.
“That is where the world is going now in terms of sports tourism. There is money in it, there is passion in it because sports unite people. We had meetings last year in terms of going forward but because of Covid [nothing much happened] but I am hoping we can still put plans in place so we can do that in terms of the future,” she said.
Outside of the annual Sailing Week activities, Antigua and Barbuda is not known for its ability to attract major sporting teams engaging in off-season training and or rehabilitation.
Almost 15 years ago, the Antigua and Barbuda Sports Tourism Authority (ABSTA), was formed during the first term of a United Progressive Party (UPP) government and was charged with bringing sports tourism benefits to the country’s shores. The group has however seemingly died a natural death.