Showcase Antigua Barbuda: Antigua and Barbuda tourism partners hail tradeshow a huge success

Antigua and Barbuda’s Tourism Industry partners are expressing enthusiasm about the new business prospects for tourism in Antigua and Barbuda following a well-executed ‘Showcase Antigua Barbuda’ that promoted the destination to travel partners from the United Kingdom, Europe and North America, over the weekend.

Thirty-seven visiting Tour Operator delegates as well as close to fifty exhibitors consisting of hotels, villas, tour companies, airlines, and destination management companies attended the Trade Show organised by the Antigua Hotels & Tourist Association in partnership with the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, and held in The Hangar at the Executive Business Centre at the V.C. Bird International Airport on Saturday.

The Hangar, transformed with booths, representative of suppliers was filled with tropical palms, wedding gazebos, island safari jeeps, helicopters, locally produced products and more as the exhibitors put on grand displays to welcome their visitors.

There was a sense of excitement in the air as the tour operators and tourism product suppliers on island busied themselves in meetings throughout the day.

The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism delegation at Showcase Antigua Barbuda was led by: Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Paula Frederick-Hunte, Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) Rohan Hector, UK & Europe Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Jean-Marc Flambert and North American Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Marie Walker.

Hector, the ABTA Chairman, a day earlier had announced to visiting delegates and media at the opening party, details of new developments taking place in the destination, including the opening of hotels, and the new terminal at the V.C. Bird International Airport.

Hector offered the remarks on behalf of the Honourable Minister of Tourism, Asot Michael who was in New York for Caribbean Week, along with CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Colin James, and Tourism Consultant, Shirlene Nibbs.

Hoteliers at the show described Showcase Antigua Barbuda, as “stunningly successful and exceptionally executed” enabling relationship building with travel partners and allowing a number of Antigua and Barbuda tourism businesses to have direct as well as uncomplicated access to new partners from the various markets which would not ordinarily be possible.

General Manager of the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association, Neil Forrester said, “This is one of the best groups of product managers we have had on island for many years. The hoteliers have had very full meeting schedules, and have taken advantage of the one-on-one meetings where discussions would have centred on ensuring that the hotel product was carried in as many tour operator programmes as possible, and on ways to boost visitor numbers to the islands.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s business from the UK continues to be strong, with UK tour operators reporting a 15% – 20% increase for 2015. Hayes and Jarvis, one of the world’s leading luxury tour operators and a member of the TUI Group, has also reported for the first time that Antigua has taken the #1 spot ahead of Barbados and St. Lucia.

New business from Europe is expected with Italian tour operator, Konrad Travel and Finland operator, Aurinkomatkat, reporting that they will begin selling the destination for the 2015/2016 Winter Season.

In the US and Canada, tour operators are optimistic about the product, having journeyed to the destination as part of the North American Offices’ aggressive familiarisation trip programme which will bring close to 100 agents to the destination before the end of the summer.

The tour operators expressed commitment to the destination, with Expedia indicating their desire to increase their inventory of hotels and villas on island from 84 to 100.

The ABTA Chairman said: “We should see numbers pick-up for the destination. Our tour operator partners are offering positive reviews on our destination, hotels and product. From all reports coming out of our major markets we should expect an increase in consumer demand.”
Showcase Antigua Barbuda ended on a high note with a cocktail party that depicted the true personality of Antigua and Barbuda. The skills of chefs and bartenders from Antigua and Barbuda’s hotels and the Antigua and Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute were on full display as they served up tasty dishes, desserts and refreshing cocktails to guests who were also treated to a high-energetic and colourful Antigua and Barbuda carnival experience.