Tourism to Antigua will be “essential” to sister island Barbuda’s recovery following the devastating effects of hurricane Irma.
Barbuda was ripped apart when the category five hurricane hit, with almost 90% of structures damaged or destroyed.
Antigua was left largely untouched and is housing residents from Barbuda who were forced to evacuate.
The cost of rebuilding Barbuda is estimated to be between $200-250m and the island will not be fully functional until summer next year.
The vast majority of hotels and tourism services are located on Antigua.
Colin James, chief executive of Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, said: “Tourism to Antigua will be absolutely essential in helping us rebuild our other island. Tourism makes up 65% of our GDP.
“Our focus now is on promoting Antigua and telling people we’re open for business. It’s now time to change the dialogue and look forward.”
He said visitor numbers for the year are likely to be 5% down on last year mainly because of the perception potential visitors have about the region being a no-go area.
Despite the dip, James said forward bookings for Antigua remained strong with no hotels having to discount to attract visitors.
He said the tourism authority will be stepping up its marketing efforts with tour operators and is planning to host events including concerts to promote the destination.
Meanwhile, Elegant Hotels is due to open Hodges Bay in the first quarter of next year in Antigua.
The 124-room property is the first Antiguan hotel for the company and will offer an all-suite villa concept accommodation.
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