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(CMC) — Minister of Tourism in Antigua and Barbuda, Charles Fernandez, said 2018 was a record-setting year as the twin island state welcomed over one million visitors, topping the figure in 2017.
The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) released the figure following last Thursday’s budget speech in which Prime Minister Gaston Browne said there were “impressive” tourist arrivals last year.
The destination attracted a total of 1,081,365 visitors in 2018, ABTA said.
This is an increase in arrivals from 2017, when Antigua and Barbuda hit the one-million-visitor-mark for the first time with, 1,059,924 visitors.
ABTA said the most impressive growth was seen in stayover (air) arrivals, where the destination attracted over 20,000 more stayover visitors in 2018 than in 2017.
This brought the total number of stayover visitors who arrived via the V.C. Bird International Airport to 268,949, ABTA said, representing an 8.75 percent increase in stayover arrivals for the year 2018.
The destination also received more cruise visitors, with cruise arrivals totaling 792,873 while arrivals by yacht totaled 19,543, ABTA said.
“We have had a very strong year of growth,” Fernandez said. “Very early in 2018, the teams were tasked with re-grouping and working more strategically to attract more stayover visitors to the destination.
“Our teams were relentless, and our tourism performance for 2018 has been exceptional,” he added. “So much so that the 2018 stayover figures surpassed not only the 2017 figures but the 2016, 2015, and 2014 arrivals.”
ABTA said Antigua and Barbuda experienced month-on-month stayover growth for the majority of the year, with a strong finish in December 2018, when demand for the destination rose by 6 percent during that month, compared to the previous December.
Overall stayover arrivals for the year showed the strongest growth from the Canadian market, with a 66 percent increase in arrivals, ABTA said.
It said the US market, where most of the destination’s visitors were derived, saw an 8 per cent growth, while the United Kingdom (UK) market, the second largest source market, “held its own.”
It said the UK market remained “flat mainly due to the uncertainties of Brexit that have suppressed outbound travel from the UK.”
The Caribbean market also recorded an increase, the ABTA said.
“We are optimistic about another year of growth for 2019, with the destination expected to benefit further from upgrades to our tourism infrastructure, new room stock and airlift,” said ABTA chief executive officer, Colin James.
He also said ABTA is set to launch a global summer marketing campaign that will focus on creating demand for the destination during the traditional summer off-season, “with value-added offers.”
“This will boost visitor arrivals to the destination at a time when many hotels have excess capacity,” James said. “Antigua and Barbuda has seen the tangible results of growth in tourism, with the country recording economic growth of 5.3 percent in 2018, making the destination the fastest growing in the entire CARICOM (Caribbean Community) area.”