Asot Michael speaks at the Annual AHTA Awards Gala

Honourable Asot Michael Minister of Tourism, Economic Development, Energy and Investment Speaks At The Annual AHTA Awards Gala.ocean

 Good evening everyone. I am very pleased to be asked to share a few of my thoughts with this distinguished and accomplished gathering, tonight. As this administration strives to Antigua and Barbuda into an economic powerhouse, the Ministers of Government recognize that the actual heavy lifting has to be undertaken by those men and women who excel in this industry. Tourism is the engine of growth and the industry that will continue to bring us wealth and opportunities.

You have been responsible for nurturing the industry by offering excellent services, and I applaud you for your outstanding contribution to our economic growth. Excellence is our administration’s watchword; and, from the composition of the gathering of workers before me, it is evident that high performance is also the essence of your creed. I applaud each and every one of you for promoting Antigua by delivering excellent service to your customers.

As we are all aware, Antigua competes with more than 20 Caribbean destinations to attract customers to its shores. The easiest customer, which any property can attract, is the loyal customer who so enjoyed the last visit that he will come again and again. You are the key to ensuring that the customer becomes loyal to our destination. And, you have performed exceedingly well.

The evidence of that claim lies not only in the repeat visitor arrivals, but also in the level of satisfaction which outgoing customers reveal. These annual award ceremonies help to strengthen the resolve of staff to provide excellence in performance,always. Managers must therefore seek without surcease to find new methods of incentivizing excellent performance. I am pleased to join in this celebration tonight, since it serves as a clear indication that the AHTA is engaged in a beautiful exercise, filled with the wisdom of experience. I congratulate those who have played a pivotal role each year to make this program a reality. Colleagues and Friends: Antigua and Barbuda has invested in a new air terminal at a cost of nearly $100 million US dollars. We have received very high grades for the excellent standard established by that terminal. We have succeeded in attracting five new airlines that will provide additional airlift.

We have attracted more than US $3 billion dollars of new tourism investment, with the expectation of creating thousands of jobs and welcoming hundreds of thousands of new arrivals. It is our expectation to add 4,000 additional beds before 2020, thereby doubling our current capacity. When therefore we speak of creating an “economic powerhouse”, we refer to this ability to bring-in the investments, to expand the economy and to create new opportunities for investment, even by employees of hotels. You can be both worker and owner of those properties that are seeking capital. A hotel can pay a higher investment return than banks. They are offering 2% while you can earn as much as 15% return annually. I want to congratulate all the winners tonight. Next year,

we want more winners.

In our administration we say that: Failure Is Not An Option.

Thank you very much, and congratulations to all.

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ASOT MICHAEL at 4th Annual Sandals Resort Industry

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HONORABLE ASOT A. MICHAEL
Minister of Tourism, Economic Development,
Investment and Energy
of Antigua and Barbuda
4th Annual Sandals Resort Industry
Appreciation Banquet Awards
Keynote Address
Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa
Thursday, June 2nd 2016
Members of Parliament;
Members of The Diplomatic Corps,
Chairman of Sandals: Dr. the Hon. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart OJ, CD CEO of Sandals, Mr. Adam Stewart,Other Distinguished Guests, Esteemed members of the media,

Good evening and warm greetings to all…

I am very pleased to be here for this 4th Annual Sandals Resorts Industry Appreciation event.

I am especially delighted that tonight we honour the best and brightest in the Tourism Industry.

In the words of late US President John F Kennedy: “We must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Let me start by acknowledging the diligence and creativity of tonight’s awardees who have not only uttered words, but who live by them.

The standards set by Sandals for its management and staff are extremely high.

Therefore, we know that the awardees are of the highest calibre and they deserve our deepest admiration and our loudest applause.

Ladies and Gentlemen, particularly those who are visiting our shores, I welcome you to this event and to Antigua and Barbuda.

I especially welcome the more than 100 principals of the top global tour operators as well as travel partners and friends of Sandals Resorts.

It is also good to see Butch Stewart and Adam Stewart.

We are pleased to see you in this, your second Caribbean home.

You have honoured us by choosing Antigua Sandals Grande Resort and Spa as the host for this event.

We view that choice as a tribute to our country and to your own high regard for this resort as a dazzling jewel in your shining crown.

Antigua and Barbuda are incredibly proud to be the home of one of a select chosen few of the Sandals Resorts brand. Sandals Resorts has time and again throughout the years, since it was founded in 1981, been the leader in the important tourism product of the “all-inclusives”.

Let me congratulate you on your wisdom and good taste!

Sandals Resorts are the leader – not the follower in the industry. As Butch has said before, “Imitation is not innovation. Exceeding expectations remains the philosophy that drives anything we can do.” Sandals Resorts are at the highest echelon in providing service. Whether it is providing the best beaches in the Caribbean – which we know something about here in Antigua and Barbuda as we have 365 of them – or providing more quality amenities and services than any competition across the world. They are continually innovating and improving to provide the best experience possible to their guests. And, of course, above anything else is the Sandals hospitality for which not only is Sandals Resorts renowned for, but has been recognized and awarded time and again throughout the years.

None of this would be possible without the vision and leadership of Butch Stewart, often called the ‘King of All-Inclusive Resorts,’ the ‘Cupid of the Caribbean,’ and the ‘Master of Marketing.’

I know tonight is not about Butch, but it would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to acknowledge his vision and leadership, without which Antigua and Barbuda would not have one of the leading properties in the world as a draw to attract thousands of tourists annually.

Not unusual, but still incredibly notable, Butch was born in modest beginnings and began working at the young age of 17 as a salesman, where, through hard work he quickly achieved success that allowed him to leave and founded his first business, Appliance Traders, Ltd in 1968.

Through his vision, and belief in this vision, he bought his first hotel in Montego Bay Jamaica, which he renovated and re-opened as the all-inclusive Sandals Resort Beach Club. As we all know, the hotel business is not for the faint of heart, and as providing the best service for all of his guests was part of Butch’s business model from the beginning. In spite of the initial hiccups, he stuck with the plan and through faith and perseverance, was able to build a profitable model for Sandals Resorts. By 1984 he was appointed president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, for his contribution to the industry and has never looked back.

Ladies and Gentlemen in 1991, a marriage made in heaven so to speak was started when Antigua and Barbuda was blessed in that we were the first Sandals resort to open outside of Jamaica. So this evening is particularly special for us as we as a nation are celebrating 25 years of a successful tourism nuptial with the Sandals Antigua Grande Resort this evening as well.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We in Antigua and Barbuda are very proud that this year marks the 25th year of Sandals’ operations in our country.

It is a silver anniversary that is worthy of commemoration, for it has been mutually beneficial.

Antigua has benefitted from Sandals, and in return Sandals has gained from Antigua.

We have had a ‘win-win’ relationship.

It is that winning relationship that we wish to continue.

That is why, as we are in the final stages of negotiating a new ‘Beaches’ resort, we look forward to reaching an equitable agreement that is fair to all stakeholders.

The Gaston-Browne government is determined to make this country the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean.

As we succeed in that quest, so too will the business sector in our community succeed.

The rising tide that we are creating will lift all boats – Sandals and the new Beaches included.

With a fair and equitable arrangement for a ‘Beaches’ resort in Antigua, tangible and sustainable benefits will accrue to the developers, the investors, and the country as a whole.

There could be no better prescription for another prosperous Butch Stewart property in a dynamic and flourishing Caribbean economy.

We look forward to announcing very shortly to the people of Antigua and Barbuda and the travel and tourism industry worldwide, that Antigua and Butch Stewart have celebrated their 25th anniversary with a gift of another world-beating, premier ‘Beaches’ resort.

My friends, I believe it is already well known that the Antigua and Barbuda economy is one of the few in the Caribbean that is growing at an appreciable rate.

We recognise that tourism is one of the main drivers of that growth.

We know, too, that tourism has the potential to be the continued locomotive of our growth.

That is why my government is investing heavily in it.

We want to give the travel and tourism industry, the infrastructure that it needs to build a superior product for the world’s market.

As you know, we have invested in a new airport terminal building with all the latest and most modern facilities.

It offers the latest in travel technology from arrival to departure, from WiFi to one of the fastest baggage delivery times in the Caribbean.

Through this investment have attracted more flights from the US, Canada and Europe.

The success to which these flights have contributed is remarkable.

Thus far this year, Antigua and Barbuda is experiencing double-digit year-over-year growth each month.

This has benefitted the entire tourism industry, including Sandals, bringing a healthier financial performance to all.

We have every reason to be pleased and to be encouraged.

But, we do not regard what we have achieved as anything more than the beginning of a long journey.

We will not rest on our laurels.

We will continue to row with vigour the boat of our economy to the shores of benefits for all.

In all this, I don’t want any of you to be spectators, cheering our diligence and success.

I call on you to join us; to become part of our success story; to embrace the win-win relationship that we are happy to offer.

Now I would like make a few remarks about Sandals and its stellar example of good Corporate Responsibility.

Sandals launched the Sandals Corporate University in 2012.

The SCU represents Sandals Resorts’ commitment to the professional development of its employees by providing them the opportunity to further advance their careers and knowledge.

Equally, the Sandals Foundation is improving the lives and residents in all eight islands of the Caribbean where the Resorts are located.

These investments pay dividends in the loyalty of workers; in their hard work and in their readiness to go the extra mile.

No wonder, Sandals is regularly recognized as the Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand, and wins awards at the elite travel award ceremonies around the world.

The Sandals Resorts brand is without a doubt, not just a leading Caribbean hotel brand, but a leading hotel brand worldwide – leading the standard for providing guests the best service possible.

That is why it is especially important that tonight we join Sandals in recognizing those that have been a part of this success.

They are sure to be part of many more future decades of success for Sandals Resort.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in our partnership with Sandals and all the stakeholders in the industry, hospitality remains our top priority; it is intrinsic to our culture.

To all the visiting tourism officials and tour operators, tourism partners, and to the management and staff of Sandals Resorts, we trust that you will shine brighter, and brighter.

Also, we urge you to return to Antigua and Barbuda, hopefully, time and again. We promise you, that with our partnership with Sandals and all the stakeholders in the industry, hospitality will remain our top priority, intrinsic to our culture, while bringing to you the supreme atmosphere in which commendation and appreciation are always part of your experience.

Again I express our profound admiration and respect to all the awardees at this event.

The success that you celebrate tonight is a matter of great pride to the people of this grateful country.

May God continue to bless your efforts and bless our beloved nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

Antigua & Barbuda opens new & modern International airport

(St. John’s, Antigua) – The twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has opened one of the most modern international airports in the Caribbean.  The 23,000 square meters new terminal for the destination, more than doubles the capacity of the adjacent previous terminal, making way for an increase in passenger use of the V.C. Bird International Airport as an all important airline hub, and the  largest gateway to the Eastern Caribbean.

There are 4 jet bridges, and a unique, state of the art baggage sorting and scanning system. With faster immigration processing times, user friendly innovations and features, the near US$100 million terminal that opens for operation on August 24, will greatly improve the visitor experience, allowing travellers expedited access to Antigua and Barbuda, and maximum sun time on the destination’s 365 beaches.

new terminal international airport

For those departing, there are 46 check-in counters and 15 self-check in kiosks. A bigger departure lounge, offers more space to relax, modern comforts, multiple gates, and an enhanced shopping and dining experience. The facility houses 30 retail units including International brands Dufry, Colombian Emeralds, Café Britt, Café Player and Subway. Free wifi and Internet service is available for the tech savvy traveler, while travelers with pets, can take advantage of the airport’s pet friendliness by enjoying the pet restroom.

There are three brand, new lounges: A VVIP lounge, a VIP lounge and an Airport Executive Lounge. The airport executive lounge, with outdoor balcony offers remarkable views of two of Antigua’s offshore islands – Long Island and Maiden Island, giving passengers the opportunity to bask in the last rays of sunshine before their flight.

The modern facility, funded by China EXIM Bank concessional loan, and by a Chinese Government Interest Free Loan, has also been specially designed with elevators, escalators and ramps, to serve the travel needs of passengers requiring special assistance.

The terminal building will also see an innovative feature intended to further advance Antigua and Barbuda’s reputation as a leader in sustainable tourism and sustainable development within the region.  This involves the establishment of a 3 mega watt solar photovoltaic facility, to provide green energy solutions to the considerable demand for electrical energy in the new terminal.

Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Tourism, Economic Development, Energy and Investment, The Honourable Asot Michael says, “What we are celebrating today as we cut a ribbon is the largest single infrastructural investment in the development of our young nation. This facility, is one that we can all be proud of and of which I am confident will help ensure the bright and successful future of Antigua and Barbuda. It will further cement our position as a premier tourist destination of choice in the Caribbean.

“We are responsible for ensuring a major part of this, by ensuring that our islands are exactly what we promise: welcoming, beautiful, safe and enjoyable; from the point when visitors touch down to their departure we will ensure that their experience is one that is unforgettable and that they take back only warm and lasting memories of their time spent in our beautiful country.”

For the upcoming winter season, JetBlue Airways will begin direct service to Antigua’s new international airport, from New York’s JFK International Airport on November 5. In December, Alitalia will begin weekly service from Milan, and Seaborne Airlines will begin direct service from San Juan.

The V.C. Bird International Airport currently offers service to more than fifty destinations worldwide on Air Canada, American Airlines, British Airways, Caribbean Airlines, Condor, Delta Airlines, LIAT (1974) Ltd, St Barth Commuter, ABM Air, Thomas Cook Airlines, Tradewinds Aviation, United Airlines, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and WestJet.

The new terminal will operate 24 hours a day.  The previous terminal building which processed over 860,000 passengers per year, will continue be used partially for administrative purposes.

The new and greatly improved V. C. Bird International Airport terminal is the latest jewel in the country’s tourism crown, and will position Antigua and Barbuda for unprecedented growth in the travel and tourism industry.

Rum Journal: Finding a Great Lobby Bar in Santo Domingo

The lobby bar. At most hotels, it sets the tone for everything — it’s the first part of the hotel you notice.

It welcomes you. It is the central meeting point. This is where you learn what a hotel is.

That’s particularly true in a hotel in an urban area.

lob

At the newly-opened Sheraton Santo Domingo, the lobby is simply grand.

There are high, seemingly endless ceilings, sweeping pillars, a marvelous chandelier.

lobrum

And at the centre is the bar, a crisp, modern square design with a nice little rum selection, a large-screen TV perfect for watching beisbol and a towering back wall.

As with many bars in the Dominican Republic, you can’t go wrong with Barcelo Imperial, a rich, caramel-accented rum that’s remarkably refreshing.

It’s functional, but it’s also energetic.

A bit like this bar.

Expedia’s Top-producing Market in the Caribbean

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Punta Cana was the top producing market for Expedia in the Caribbean region last year, according to new data released by the company.

According to sources provided by Asot Michael Minister of Tourism Punta Cana saw a 50 percent growth in travel demand on Expedia last year, while the Dominican Republic itself posted a 45 percent increase in travel demand.

The data were released ahead of the opening of the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange, which opens in Punta Cana on Tuesday.

“With robust flight inventory, a strong hospitality foundation and sunny year-round weather, the Dominican Republic has consistently led travel demand and been recognized as a popular Caribbean destination for travelers from major markets including the United States, United Kingdom and Canada,” said Demetrius Canton, director of lodging partner services for the Caribbean at Expedia group.

Expedia recently opened its first local offices in Punta Cana and Santo Domingo earlier this year.

“Through our new local offices, Expedia can better understand the objectives of our valued hotel partners on a local level in order to develop a strategic and effective plan for them,” said Miriam Hernandez, Area Manager for the Caribbean. “While demand continues to grow for both the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean region, competition among hoteliers will also increase. Expedia is keen on providing partners the ability to stand out and ultimately generate revenue and exposure to new relevant audiences.”

Royalton to Open Hotel in Negril

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Blue Diamond’s Royalton brand is planning to open a resort in Negril.

The company has announced that it would be opening the Royalton Negril at the former Grand Lido Resort and Spa in Negril, Jamaica.

The Grand Lido closed its doors as a result on April 26, according to the property’s Web site.

Royalton recently debuted another new Jamaican resort last year, the Royalton White Sands in Trelawny.

The company reportedly will spend $150 million on the redevelopment of the property.

The redevelopment is slated to expand the property to more than 500 rooms, according to a recent release from the government of Jamaica.

The property is slated to open in late 2016, according to reports given by Asot Michael Minister of Tourism.