Hon Porsha Stubbs, Minister of Tourism Turks & Caicos,
Dr. Kingsly Been, Chairman of Turks & Caicos Tourism Board
Mrs. Lavern Skippings-Reynolds, Airport Manager, Providenciales International Airport
Ralph Higgs, Director of Tourism, Turks & Caicos Airport
Mr. Rohan Hector, Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority
Mr. Colin James CEO Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority
Ms. Paula Frederick-Hunte Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism
Ms. Shirlene Nibbs: Tourism Consultant in the Ministry of Tourism
Other Distinguished guests and members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen.
First of all, I would like to warmly welcome everyone to V. C. Bird International Airport today, and to thank you for being here to celebrate and share this exciting occasion in tourism, for not only Antigua and Barbuda, but even more so for our close friends from The Turks and Caicos, Islands as well as British Airways.
Today marks a very important step in the gaining importance of the Caribbean for the UK and European tourism industry. We ,a Part of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are welcoming the inaugural flight of a British Airways service that will transit Antigua and where the aircraft will continue onwards to the Turks & Caicos Islands.
I believe I can speak for everyone here today by saying that Antigua and Barbuda have long had a mutually beneficial and respected relationship with the tourism industry from the UK – and beyond – a relationship that we have done much to foster to ensure all visitors know they will be embraced with open arms when they arrive.
Figures for the UK tourism market to the Caribbean as a whole have been showing positive growth, and I believe we can officially say that the Brits love us, and of course, that we love the Brits! In fact we look forward with much expectation to welcome thousands of English cricket fans for the upcoming Test Series with the West Indies which will be held in Antigua from April 13th -17th.
This rise in popularity of both Antigua and Barbuda and The Turks & Caicos Islands as top destinations is shown by British Airways agreeing to add a direct link between our two destinations. Additionally, with British Airways being one of the world’s largest carriers, it means that not only will UK residents, but so will many others from across Europe connecting via Gatwick, be able to visit our dual destinations even more easily.
This new airservice also means that for the first time in the history of our two countries there will be direct flights between the Eastern Caribbean and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
This new flight means new opportunities and choices available to us for increased business activities and closer collaboration. The end result will be greater economic growth while, simultaneously building the spirit of regional integration between our two countries.
We are confident more choice will equal more visitors for everyone here, and everyone in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
I do truly stress the ‘us’ as this new flight will offer an increase in options not only for those wanting to visit Antigua and then visit the Turks and Caicos, but also vice versa for those visiting Turks & Caicos now being able to easily visit Antigua. We know when passengers are flying 8 hours and longer from Europe that they truly want to explore the Caribbean and this direct flight allows them to easily, comfortably, and quickly travel between these two, I would say, unique and perfect destinations in the Caribbean.
This new air service comes with unique advantages. It actually means visitors from the UK and Europe as well as the Eastern Caribbean wanting to visit our friends in the Turks & Caicos Islands will be able to do so without travelling via a US port. This is a major benefit as transferring at an airport in the US means obtaining a regular visitor’s VISA or ESTA pre-clearance visas for all non-US citizens. Not only is there a costinvolved for obtaining a visa, but untold amounts of time is spent standing in immigration and custom lines while transiting most US airports. We can promise all travelers transferring directly to Turks and Caicos a smoother, quicker and more enjoyable experience – plus an even more wonderful experience if they choose to stop-over!
As part of our investment to prove to visitors how important they are to us, and to ensure that all visitors receive the best travel experience possible on our island, we will be opening a new airport terminal very shortly. This will feature not only the latest technology for our passengers to avail of, but also first class duty free shopping. Additionally the overall passenger experience will be greatly enhanced by expedited processing procedures with multiple VIP andPremium Passenger First Class lounges.
Finally I would like to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to my colleague Minister, of Tourism from the Turks and Caicos Islands the Honourable Porsha Stubbs to be present with us in June to help us celebrate the opening of our new airport which will mark the commencement of a new phase ofgrowth in tourism for our beloved country.
May the start of this inaugural direct service between Antigua and Barbuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands mark the beginning of a new the phase of friendship, cooperation and growth in this vital industry between our countries.