By Orville Williams
The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) is looking to attract more visitors from non-traditional source markets to the country, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact the global tourism industry.
The United States and the United Kingdom have been the twin island nation’s biggest source markets for some time, but the pandemic has hit each of those markets hard, affecting travel to Antigua and Barbuda and other destinations that have long depended on that business.
For example, the local tourism sector experienced record arrivals during 2019, with just over 300,000 tourists touching down over the course of the year, but that number dwindled significantly in the following year, due primarily to the Covid-effected border closures.
Things have picked up since then, according to tourism officials, with the number of visitors slowly increasing over the past couple of months, but there is still some way to go to reach or surpass pre-pandemic levels.
Some countries, including Barbados and St Lucia, have voiced their intention to engage with new, non-traditional source markets as a means of filling the gap and the question was asked whether Antigua and Barbuda would follow suit.
Charmaine Spencer, Sales & Marketing Consultant with the ABTA, confirmed to Observer yesterday that that is indeed an objective of theirs, with work already ongoing to that end.
“Yes, we are, actually; we’re participating in the Dubai Expo and we have been doing a lot of work with the Middle East. We’ve seen a lot of questions coming out of [for example] the Scandinavian market and Russia, a lot of questions regarding our yachting sector and various [other sectors].
“We’re also doing work within Latin America, so we are looking to see some business generate out of the non-traditional markets,” she explained.
Despite the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant globally, vaccination numbers are steadily increasing in many countries – giving tourism officials in Antigua and Barbuda and across the region hope that things will return to a state of normalcy sooner rather than later.