From 5 flights a week, to 10: Antigua can’t wait to see this winter’s numbers out of Canada
Colin Skerritt, Tourism Director, Canada for the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority

From 5 flights a week, to 10: Antigua can’t wait to see this winter’s numbers out of Canada

TORONTO — Lift, lift, lift: it’s been Colin Skerritt’s priority for Antigua and Barbuda since he was put in charge of the Canadian market 18 months ago.

Now heading into the 2017-2018 winter season, Skerritt, named Tourism Director, Canada for the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority back in July 2016, is excited about Sunwing’s new service into Antigua as well as increased capacity with both Air Canada and WestJet.

Sunwing’s new flights started Nov. 10 out of Toronto, with two weekly departures, and Nov. 26 out of Montreal with one weekly departure. The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority’s relationship with Sunwing “is not just an airlift relationship. It’s a strategic partnership,” said Skerritt in conversation with Travelweek. “Sunwing is putting a stakehold into the destination. It’s great for us. There is definitely positive fanfare.”

Sunwing Travel Group’s Blue Diamond Resorts announced in August 2017 that it was taking over Jolly Beach Resort & Spa, Antigua’s largest all-inclusive. The resort has been re-branded as Starfish Jolly Beach Resort & Spa.

Earlier in the year Sunwing Travel Group’s Blue Diamond Resorts also bought the Grand Royal Antiguan Beach Resort, set to open in 2018. Sunwing is also building a new Royalton property on Antigua, for 2019.

The new Sunwing flights, plus the extra capacity with Air Canada and WestJet, “are taking Antigua from a destination that had five flights per week in the winter out of Canada, to 10 flights. That’s a significant increase,” said Skerritt.

The destination’s visitor numbers out of Canada have been fairly flat, he adds, but that’s sure to change with the extra lift.

And given the downturn in visitor numbers that some other destinations in the Caribbean are grappling with post-hurricane, flat growth is almost a positive, at least this year in the wake of Irma and Maria. Barbuda is rebuilding but Antigua emerged unscathed from one of the wildest Atlantic hurricane seasons in recent memory.

New hotels on the island also include Hodges Bay Resort and Spa, part of the Elegant Hotels group. Opening July 2018, Hodges Bay is billed as a premium five-star property with a high-end holistic spa.

Meanwhile several well-known resorts are undergoing renovations or have completed renovations including Ocean Point Resort & Spa, Galley Bay Resort & Spa, St. James’s Club and Curtain Bluff.

Agents can learn all about the latest happenings on Antigua and Barbuda through the destination’s specialist program. Antigua and Barbuda Certified Agents can take advantage of fam trips, agent incentives and more. “We have a fantastic specialist program,” says Skerritt. “We put great incentives out there. And the same reps that you see out there in the field, at trade shows and so on, are here to help. Tameka [Wharton, Sales & Marketing Manager, ABTA] and I like to be in touch with our community. And we want agents to know that we appreciate the work that they do.”

Skerritt adds that while Antigua is well-known with the Canadian trade and travellers alike, the island has always been seen as a premium product destination. “Now with Sunwing I feel like we will also be known as a family-friendly destination too,” he says. “We’ll become a top-tier destination with product on both sides. And we have restaurants and attractions to fit.”

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