The Honourable Asot Michael, Minister of Tourism Economic Development & Energy for the Government of Antigua & Barbuda was inToronto last week on a trade mission. Pictured here with Michael (second from left) are Colin C. James, CEO of the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority, Ann-Marie Layne, Consulate General of Antigua & Barbuda and Rohan Hector, special advisor to the Minister.

Antigua targets high-end travellers with new development plan

TORONTO — Antigua is looking to boost its tourism profile with a new airport terminal, a new $2 billion resort development and other new properties including a 400-room Beaches resort set to break ground on the eastern side of the island in early 2015.

Already known for its boutique resorts and quality tourism product, Antigua is also aiming for higher visitor spend, and wants to bring back upscale brand-name shops to round out the vacation experience. “We don’t want to be a mega-destination,” said Hon. Asot Anthony Michael, Minister of Tourism, Economic Development Investment and Energy for the Government of Antigua & Barbuda. Recently a developer proposed a 46-storey hotel for the island “and we said no.”

Instead Antigua is pursuing high-quality resorts that attract high-end clientele who spend more tourism dollars, he said.

The new airport terminal, which will be the largest in the Eastern Caribbean when it opens in March 2015, will have jet bridges, VIP lounges and high-end duty-free shops.

The $2 billion resort development meanwhile will house a five-star hotel, golf course, 1,300 residential units, shopping facilities, a much-needed conference centre for the island and a casino.

With the new Beaches property and other resort projects, Antigua should see its bed count rise from the current 3,200 to about 6,000 by 2015/16.

Canada is “a very important market” for Antigua, the island’s third largest source market behind the U.S. and the UK. The Canadian market has grown by well over 20% for each of the past three years and helped sustain the island’s tourism numbers during the economic downturn, said Michael.

On the job as Minister of Tourism for just over two months, Michael has high hopes for the Canadian market, saying he wants a stronger presence in Canada “because that’s the foundation for an increase in visitor arrivals.”

Antigua is also a big draw for cruise passengers, welcoming some 550,000 cruise ship visitors last year. The island is looking at major developments at the port of St. John’s, including a boardwalk and repaved roads.

Get travel news right to your inbox!