Antigua and Barbuda has been one of the better-faring international destinations for North American tourists since the beginning of the pandemic. Its proximity to major North American cities, airlift options, and outdoor offerings allowed it to perform better than other major European, and even Caribbean, destinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And now, with tourism again winding up for the summer, and the U.S. recently rolling back its inbound testing requirement, Antigua and Barbuda is gearing up for another big year.
The CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Colin C. James, spoke to TMR recently about how tourism has been trending on the islands.
According to James, U.S. arrivals for both April and May of this year are higher than the same months both in 2021 and 2019, which was the best year ever for air arrivals into Antigua and Barbuda.
“We have reversed the deficit from the pandemic and are now seeing not only the effects of that pent-up demand for travel but also the strong marketing messages we have been putting out into the market,” he said.
Some of those marketing messages that James said have made a significant impact on that inbound boost were the “Space in the Sun” promo, which was launched in July 2020 and targeted consumers from the U.S. and the U.K. through print and digital advertising. Antigua and Barbuda revisited that campaign in 2021 following the relaxation of some COVID-19 requirements in North America and the U.K.
The campaign highlighted “travel-friendly protocols” that consumers and the travel trade were looking for, which were not being offered by other destinations (Antigua and Barbuda were the first of the Eastern Caribbean to reopen).
James called the recent news that the U.S. CDC would remove the inbound testing requirement “welcome news” for Antigua and Barbuda, which is now more accessible than at any time during the pandemic.
“It has eliminated an additional cost that US travelers faced as they returned home which means more disposable income to be spent on their Antigua and Barbuda vacations. This has been welcoming news, and will provide a boost to the summer season with this removal of inbound testing,” he said.
As for this summer, Antigua’s Carnival opening Parade kicks off in St. John’s on July 23. The legendary pre-Lenten festival has been a prime event for visitors from around the world prior to the pandemic and finally returns this summer after a two-year hiatus.
James told TMR that Carnival enthusiasts have been “longing for the return of the Caribbean Carnivals and as one of the few Caribbean destinations that will be having Carnival this year, we are seeing the stalwarts as well as newcomers expressing their desire and making their travel plans, to visit for the celebrations.”
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorizes Antigua and Barbuda as Level 3: High under its COVID-19 monitoring system. That level includes most of the countries that the CDC monitors.
“Make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before traveling to these destinations. If you are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, avoid travel to these destinations,” the CDC’s level 3 warning reads.