ST JOHN’S, Antigua -- Addressing the needs and the expectations of travelers to Antigua and Barbuda, while ensuring that decisions are made that will impact positively on the tourism industry and maintain the destination’s competitiveness within the marketplace will be high on the agenda for the ministry of tourism and the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority when they meet with industry stakeholders.
Antigua and Barbuda will tackle these and other challenges as one of the first seven destinations selected to participate in the new Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas (SDAA) through the support of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd’s Ocean Fund. The SDAA will help Antigua and Barbuda to balance the protection and enhancement of its rich natural and cultural assets, while appealing to the expanding market of travelers interested in responsible practices and authentic experiences.
“We are confident that we can further improve the way that we manage tourism to ensure the long-term sustainability of our most critical sector,” said Asot Michael, Antigua and Barbuda’s minister of tourism, investment, economic development, and energy. “We pledge to provide those people who manage tourism every day, from government officials to local business owners, with the education and support that they need to be successful in their roles, and to build a better future for our country through tourism.”
The first step of Antigua and Barbuda’s SDAA journey takes place with a visit from Alliance implementation and convening partner Sustainable Travel International. Lead assessor Seleni Matus will work closely with stakeholders on Sustainable Travel International’s signature Rapid Destination Diagnostic tool.
The evaluation guides stakeholders to develop a snapshot of the destination’s performance on 118 internationally recognized sustainability indicators. Once complete, the assessment will outline good practices, risks, and opportunities, as well as recommendations for improvement and implementation.
Matus will return next month to engage destination leaders in step two, an action planning forum which will help stakeholders to validate priorities and design compelling quick-win projects that address areas of need.
“It is evident from local leaders that there is broad-based recognition about the importance of protecting the long-term health of tourism. Today, tourism represents more than 70% of the nation’s GDP. Stakeholders seem quite ready to work together to address sustainable destination management issues,” said Matus.
On Tuesday, tourism stakeholders met for a focus group discussion on destination management and community involvement and benefits. As part of the assessment, two more focus groups dealing with environmental issues and the management of natural and cultural heritage sites and attractions, as well as a series of one-on-one meetings with government leaders, the private sector and non-governmental organizations, were held.
Through the SDAA, Antigua and Barbuda will also have access to a destination sustainability monitoring framework, and support with sustainability marketing and storytelling.