By the Caribbean Journal staff
Antigua and Barbuda continues to see booming tourism growth.
The beach-filled twin-island destination reported 268,949 stayover arrivals in 2018, an 8.75 percent increase over 2017 that was one of the highest growth rates in the Caribbean region.
Combined with cruise passenger arrivals, the destination welcomed more than one million visitors in 2018.
“A record setting year for Antigua and Barbuda,” said Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez.
Cruise arrivals totaled 792,873 passengers, while yacht arrivals numbered 19,543, according to just-released data.
“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.”
Indeed, the 2018 stayover figures surpassed totals for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, Fernandez said.
That included a comeback for the island of Barbuda, which saw the reopening of its top boutique hotel, the Barbuda Belle.
“Our teams were relentless and our tourism performance for 2018 has been exceptional,” he said.
That was buoyed by very strong growth from the Canadian market — which saw a 66 percent increase in arrivals.
The United States market, the primary source of travelers to Antigua and Barbuda, saw 8 percent growth.
Growth from the United Kingdom was largely flat, with officials citing the “uncertainties of Brexit that have suppressed outbound travel from the UK.”
“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 Colin C. James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority.
The growth has come as Antigua has become one of the Caribbean’s hottest destinations for hotel investment, with a wave of new brands on the way, from Waldorf Astoria to Rosewood.
Royalton will soon open a new all-inclusive on the island, while Elite Island Resorts is planning to debut a new luxury adults-only resort as well this year, called Hammock Cove.