Showcase Antigua and Barbuda opens with well placed optimism and a vision to take the destination forward to a strong recovery
The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority opened its annual Showcase with Minister Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez leading 90 stakeholders from the tourism industry in a Destination Round Table Discussion to fine tune his Vision 2032 – the 10 year plan to take the Caribbean destination to a strong recovery from the pandemic, engaging the entire host population in a common goal to deliver high quality products and excellent value for money, and announcing his ambition for all properties, whatever their star rating, to offer a five star service.
The Destination Round Table was introduced to Showcase for the first time this year to encourage the Antigua and Barbuda tourism industry to discuss openly the issues and trends facing them in the short, medium and long term. Output from the day will feed into the development of the Vision 2032.
There was a huge sense of optimism in the room. Antigua and Barbuda have done better than most, easing restrictions earlier than other Caribbean destination, and joining the UK ‘green list’ in June 2021. The islands’ ability to lift restrictions safely, but quickly, and welcome visitors back to its shores led to a relatively strong summer 2021, and has placed Antigua and Barbuda in a good position to drive forward with global marketing campaigns this year, presented to the audiences by Mr Colin James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority. Mr James was also able to announce the news that, at the end of April this year, the UK had eclipsed the USA on monthly arrivals for the first time.
The discussion was facilitated by Hugh Riley from the PM Group and the panel included Paula Whitehead from Elite Island Resorts, who discussed the importance of keeping up with technological advancements and customer and travel trade expectations, especially around booking systems, websites and social media marketing. Mariel Polanco, market manager for Expedia, shared that 98% of bookings being made to Antigua and Barbuda are on flexible cancellation policies despite a premium being charged. However, cancellation rates are normal, indicating that suppliers should be encouraged to offer flexible terms to accommodate customer caution without excessive fear of cancellation.
Michael Pewther, Head of International at Frontier Airlines, discussed the ambitions of the airline to continue to meet the expectations of customers by providing low fares, offered in a customer friendly, and most importantly, sustainable way, conceding that the rise in fuel costs was a challenge faced by all low cost airlines and one which must be overcome.
TravelMole is the UK media partner for Showcase 2022, and Helena Beard presented five key trends for discussion; high demand for dream holidays (including family holidays), the endurance of the travel agent and expert tour operator, the need for authenticity in service delivery and product offering, the importance of sustainable travel, and the trends in the workplace spilling over into leisure travel habits, not least the impact of the ‘Great Resignation’ and Microsoft’s forecast that over 40% of global workers are considering changing jobs in the next 12 months.
The keynote speaker for the event was Hon. Denise Charles, the Minister for Tourism, International Transport and Maritime Initiatives for Dominica. Minister Charles described this as ‘a critical moment for tourism in our region’ and spoke of the need for the islands of the Caribbean to work closely together to develop urgent improvements to intra-regional travel.
Showcase Antigua Barbuda 2022 is also celebrating 60 years of BA flying to Antigua and delegates to the event include UK tour operators, including BA Holidays, Best at Travel, Lightfoot Travel, Classic Collection, Destinations 2, Caribtours, Tropic Breeze and Elegant Resorts. The operators will meet hoteliers and suppliers from the Antigua and Barbuda tourism industry during a full day of B2B workshops and other activities planned include a gala dinner at Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa and a programme of hotel visits and island experiences, hosted by the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority.