The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority has revealed that it is following a two-phase approach that focuses on its accessibility and luxury offering as part of its marketing campaign into 2016.
Being just a seven-and-a-half-hour flight from the UK and served by 12 direct weekly flights (with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic from London and Thomas Cook from Manchester in winter), agents are able to find options to suit all clients.
The tourist office’s vice president sales and marketing UK & Europe, Jean-Marc Flambert, said: “The airlines offer 145,000 seats in total and we had 73,000 visitors last year, so there is plenty of capacity to grow. In terms of visitor numbers, in July we were up by 11% and by the end of this year we hope to be up by 7% overall on last year.”
Hand in hand with accessibility is the destination’s value for money offering which agents have been keen to capitalise on. Flambert said: “In March we started to highlight the value that Antigua offers to UK holidaymakers, with a week’s all-inclusive stay including flights starting from £799. This is similar to prices to some European destinations, with the only difference being a longer flight time, and this is one of the key messages that we will continue to promote going into 2016.”
In addition, the tourist board is also keen to highlight that there are plenty of opportunities for agents to earn significant commission if they focus on Antigua’s luxury offering and attracting discerning visitors.
As part of this awareness drive, the tourist office has been running a London Underground advertising campaign ('Welcome to our island life' ) that highlights the destination’s beautiful beaches and luxury lifestyle to help build brand awareness. Flambert said: “One of our aims is to encourage agents to help themselves by trying to sell more complicated holidays. Unfortunately, agents who just sell holidays with the hotel, flight and beach aspect will always be undercut by a computer. What they could be doing is putting together packages that computers just can’t match and offering a three-island experience across one border.
“For example, clients could travel to Antigua for a few days, get a ferry or flight transfer to sister island Barbuda for a few days and also experience a helicopter excursion to take in the island of Montserrat. Agents are in a unique position to offer this, and with numerous new developments taking place on Barbuda, they should find clients increasingly eager to explore the stunning islands.
New developments on Barbuda include the new hotel Barbuda Belle, the existing Lighthouse Hotel, as well as a new US$250million hotel development project, Paradise Found, which is scheduled to launch in 2018. The project is being led by actor Robert De Niro along with Australian James Packer and will involve the renovation and expansion of the K-Club on Barbuda. It’s not uncommon for us to see agents making bookings of £30,000-£40,000 which means serious commission levels for agents who spend the time putting together unique itineraries for their clients.”
Meanwhile, other additions that agents can look to promote include visits to the private island of Jumby Bay (a Rosewood Hotel), as well as highlighting new hotel projects. These include the development of a small island by a company called YIDA, which will feature a Hard Rock Café and is planned by open in 2018, as well as a new project near Jolly Beach, one of Antigua’s most popular beaches, called Pearns Point which is managed by a company called Setai.
Flambert is also encouraging agents to highlight the destination’s nature and hiking holidays to whet the appetite of those seeking activity and adventure holidays.
He said: “We have a total of 23 excursions that agents can promote - some land-based and some water-based. Both Exodus and Ramblers have also launched new tours for 2016 that agents can look to capitalise on.”