The ABHTA’s outlook on stay-over occupancy

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Tourism officials welcoming passengers via WestJet back to Antigua and Barbuda yesterday at the V.C. Bird International Airport. (Photos by Makeida Antonio)
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Our environment remains unpredictable

Monday January 31, 2022, Antigua and Barbuda: The occupancy performance results in 2021 were benchmarked against 2019, the best performing year for Antigua and Barbuda with over 300,000 stay-over arrivals.  Despite the pandemic, there was a measure of success as the destination saw strong arrivals in July and August, which created a surge of optimism in the industry. Additionally, offering convenience for travelers was also a major priority. This was supported by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment with its authorization of on resort Antigen testing. This was a huge boost for the industry as resorts were able to present a selling point of convenience for visitors. The industry also received a boost of confidence with the drive toward 100% vaccination. The destination protocol change of accepting only vaccinated guests also supported the presentation of the destination as Sun, Sea and Safe.

Despite a glimmer of success this past year, it was not without its challenges and a reminder that we are still very much in a pandemic. Communication of changes in protocols affected booking patterns over the year as the travel trade were extremely sensitive to changes. The presence of variants also promoted travel hesitancy. Travel advisories and restrictions from our key source markets also contributed to cancellations and affected performance.

As we look ahead to 2022, the month of January and the introduction of the Omicron variant has reminded us that we continue to exist in a very volatile industry. The interest in the destination is high, yet we continue to manage traveler concerns about Omicron and have faced cancellations or re-booking of travel, pushing our rebound further into 2022 and beyond.

Mr. Vernon A. Jeffers Snr, Executive Chairman of the ABHTA highlighted the challenges we continue to face “Several Hotels, like Jolly Beach, Halcyon, Sugar Ridge and Anchorage Inn have closed doors over the last few years, significantly reducing the room count and the country’s profile abroad. Airlift has also been affected as we have seen several airlines announcing cancellations such as Air Canada and Jet Blue. Charters like Blue Panorama have not restarted since Covid. Blue Panorama and the Italian/European traveler have not yet returned to Antigua. The fall-out from the lucrative Italian market is notable.  We are also missing the Caribbean business/leisure traveler.  Business personnel have moved to virtual platforms which are proving more financially beneficial to their businesses.”  Mr. Jeffers further stated that “There is so much to consider as our destination continues to face these challenges however, we are hopeful that by the 3rd to 4th quarter of the year, we will be well on our way to some stability.”

While the industry continues to see measured improvement, the volatility and uncertainty due to Covid-19 still exists. In an effort to assess the status of our recovery, ABHTA will continue to monitor the performance of its members.

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