WTM: New airport for Antigua and Barbuda

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Antigua and Barbuda will have a new airport by the end of 2013 after a $43m investment.

The new facility, unveiled at World?Travel Market, is designed to make the process of entering and leaving the country far smoother and more efficient.

Minister of tourism John Maginley said the current airport, built more than 30 years ago, wasn’t designed with the strict regulations surrounding travel nowadays and the hugely increased volume of passengers in mind.

“The airport is the first and last impression our visitors get so we want to make sure it is a great experience.”

The Caribbean island has had a solid year, up 11% on 2010 but Maginley believes without the “unfair” APD tax the numbers would be even better.

“The income it brings the UK government is hard for them to walk away from, and I understand that, but we have come up with a way for it to be fairer with a small increase for short haul and everyone else in band B.

“The argument is that people are still travelling but because it is more expensive those people are spending less time in resort and spending less money when there – it is damaging Caribbean economies.”

Antigua and Barbuda will shortly be launching a new website designed to bring together all social media channels and everything available on the island from hotels to experiences and available discounts.

It will also include a booking engine to allow consumers to book holidays through the site.

Maginley feels that investment in this area rather than print advertising is key to its future success.

“Only those people who already know about Antigua are finding it online – we want new people, new customers who don’t know about it.

“For that we need to be on the first page of google when someone searches a term such as Caribbean sailing and then when people find the site we want them to be able to see a wide range of content and all our partners such as hoteliers, tour operators and agents.”