Jean-Marc Flambert, Antigua’s UK and Europe vice-president, sales and marketing, said that there was a danger that the devastation caused in Barbuda meant tourists were put off visiting Antigua.
“We got a lot of publicity because we were going to be one of the first hit,” he said. “But at the very last moment, Irma moved north and [largely] missed Antigua. All but one hotel is now open.”
He said drone footage had showed “absolutely no sign” of remaining damage and that the increased rainfall that Irma bought meant the island was unusually lush.
“The story in Barbuda is very different,” he admitted, saying it was “too early to say” when Barbuda would be open for visitors again. Antigua is encouraging tourism to help fund the repair effort in Barbuda and the 2018 campaign will attempt to get visitors out of all-inclusive properties and spending in the local communities.
“We are working with the trade to make sure they understand that yes, we have fantastic beaches, but also to make sure they know there is so much to see and do – so tell clients, ‘bring your wallet with you’.”
Part of the campaign will focus on sailing and water sports, with Antigua being described as “a great destination for those learning to sail”. Facilities include a women-only sailing school. This December, Antigua will see a key new property added, when Hodges Bay Resort & Spa opens. Hodges Bay will be the first Elegant Hotels property on the island, boasting 124 rooms, some of which convert into multi-room suites.
The refurbished Nonsuch Bay will open in 2018, with 50 additional rooms, including 40 suites with private plunge pools in a new adults-only area of the resort. These rooms are due to open in the first quarter of 2018, with another 10 rooms in the existing resort due to come online in the latter half of 2018.