In this framework, Travel2latam spoke with Charles Fernandez, Minister of Tourism of Antigua and Barbuda
I want to ask you your feelings about this incredible exhibition.
I think it has been, as you said, an incredible exhibition. I think it's important for several reasons. One is that the panel discussions have been very important. It dealt with a number of issues, including climate change, effects on small island developing states, the whole aspect of sustainability, bearing in mind again what is happening with climate change. In addition to that we are able to rub shoulders with our tourism minister counterparts throughout the Caribbean and Latin and South America especially to come up with new ideas and compare what we are doing because the whole idea is for us to be as innovative as possible. We've also had an opportunity to meet with two operators and airlines again because airlift is so important to us.
Okay, wonderful. We are ending the year. I want to comment about the season. How was it for you? I mean, in terms of your objectives, the numbers of tourists that you have had in the destination?
Right now running on par with 2019 levels pre-pandemic and 2019 was a record year for Antigua and Barbuda. So to that end I will say we're up to where we were and that for us is remarkable. I think the Caribbean in general is benefiting from an uptick, and so it really is a very important time for us. In addition to that, we know that hurricanes and storms have threatened us in the past. We are very fortunate that this year we basically have remained unscathed. So all in all, it's been a very good year. We're very thankful. And we hope the season will continue to be what it's shaping up to be.
OK. And how is your vision for 2024?
2024 looks as though it's going to be even bigger than 2023. As I said there's a lot of interest in the Caribbean and I think that working through CTO, the Caribbean Tourism Organization, is really making a difference because it's actually marketing the Caribbean. And so 2024 I think will be a big year for the Caribbean in general and of course for Antigua and Barbuda in particular.
And you have made a great investment for this convention and it's part of a strategy that you usually have. So, can you comment if you will continue with this kind of initiative in the next year?
Yes, we are committed to our type of exhibition. This year was a little bit different, it was bigger. And we've gotten very positive comments from people who have visited our booth. So I think the whole presence of our booth has been a plus for us. And it's more welcoming. And I think that we've done very, very well. We're thankful to the exhibition management for allowing us to occupy this space at the size that we really appreciate.