(Photo: investantiguaandbarbuda.org)

No tourism turnaround coming soon, says Antigua’s tourism association

(Photo: investantiguaandbarbuda.org)

Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism industry will continue to be severely impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) well into 2021, according to a new report from the nation’s hotel and tourism association.

Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism association says the country will continue to see low occupancy into next year.

Occupancy levels and airlift are not projected to surpass 50 per cent as the territory continues to feel the effects of the pandemic which devastated a promising start to the current year.

The Antigua Barbuda Hotels & Tourism Association (ABHTA) said passenger arrivals in August 2020 was down 73 per cent while occupancies stood at 9.90 per cent based on total room nights available compared to the same month in 2019.

The falloff followed the island’s state of emergency declaration on March 28 which led to the closure of resorts and tours, as well as widespread industry layoffs.

An aerial view of St John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda. (Photo: Port Shopping Spree)

Hotel employment was cut by just under 30 per cent as data reveals that some 1,500 of approximately 5,500 employees were terminated.

“This comes after strong occupancy figures in January and February 2020 had signalled a turnaround from the effects of hurricanes and sargassum for Antigua and Barbuda,” the association noted.

“Additional tourism workers remain at risk given the ongoing challenges in the sector and membership has already paid severance in excess of EC$18M,” ABHTA said.

Occupancy projections for the coming year will remain anaemic as numbers struggling to surpass 50 per cent up to April 2021, due to the reduction in airlift, disrupted booking patterns and a cap on guest numbers based on new health and safety standards, among others, the ABHTA noted.

What’s more, destination projections indicate a 43 per cent decline in seats at the start of the 2021 winter season with an estimated 4,361 weekly seats October through December 2020 compared to 7,692 airline seats for the same period last year.

Chairman of the ABHTA, Vernon A. Jeffers, said “We do not see an indication of an overall turnaround this year or even next given the many variables affecting the sector from sustained consumer confidence and curve flattening to vaccines.

“But for those intrepid travellers ready for a change of scenery the new normal for travel seems to slowly be taking hold. The once daunting protocol of pre-testing has become a familiar requirement and available airlift less of an obstacle, while our Antigua and Barbuda health and cleanliness certification program lets guests know they can place their trust in our member accommodations, restaurants, tours and retail shops.”