Remarks by The Hon. Haydn Hughes, Minister of Tourism On the occasion of Anguilla’s Tourism Week, November 28-December 4, 2021 {Tourism Week Theme: “Destination Ready – Path Forward for Tourism In Anguilla.” Subthemes: Rediscover, Reimagine, Reignite.}

The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

Fellow Anguillians, as I speak to you today at the opening of Tourism Week 2021, I cannot recall a period in our history when our island was more aware of the importance of tourism to our livelihood. Recent events – most especially the global pandemic – helped to reinforce the fact that tourism is an essential driving force in the global economy and key to Anguilla’s success.

When the numbers of planes landing and guests arriving at the Blowing Point Ferry Terminal are not at the levels to which we are accustomed, everyone feels the pinch. When our people are unemployed or underemployed due to closure of our industry, families take the brunt of it. When our tax receipts are dangerously low and our public coffers are depleted, social services and infrastructure, facilities and amenities are all endangered.

In short, when the main source of our income is jeopardized, everyone needs to get involved in addressing the problem. That’s when we need to keep reminding ourselves of the old adage: We are either part of the problem, or part of the solution.

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So this year’s Tourism Week isn’t so much about heightening awareness of the value of this industry to the lives of Anguillians; it really is more about what we can do collectively to address the challenges that confront us. The current problems were not of our making, but the solutions most certainly are our responsibility. We were placed here at this time to make a difference and to navigate our country through the most difficult waters.

We have taken extraordinary measures to ensure that we protect both our residents and our visitors as we approach our all-important winter season, starting with the requirement that all visitors to Anguilla who are 18 years or older, except pregnant women, must be fully vaccinated. We have evolved and adjusted our protocols as well as expanded our vaccination options and testing requirements. We have kept the application process in place, along with the submission of a negative Covid-19 test result, and we will continue to test all guests on arrival with exception to fully vaccinated day trippers from neighboring St. Maarten/St. Martin.

It should be noted that earlier this month, our main source market for visitors, the United States, has also begun to require that all travelers arriving in the US by air be fully vaccinated. Before boarding, passengers will need to show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of entering the United States.

Visitors from The UK and Canada are also experiencing changes in protocols. And the same goes for virtually every major tourism destination in the world. The point here is that COVID has helped to remind us that we are all in uncharted territory, and we must always be prepared for circumstances that are sometimes beyond our control.
What then is the path forward for Anguilla’s tourism and our economy as a whole? And how do we encourage consumers to rediscover and reimagine our destination?

How do we diversify the tourism product to ensure value for money and create opportunities for all?

How do we enhance our physical environment and develop our product to ensure that Anguilla’s environment and the aesthetics of the island is improved to one to be envied?

How do we encourage the aspirational traveler to visit our shores?

My Ministry, The ATB, our stakeholders here in Anguilla and our teams in the markets overseas, have combined our resources to position Anguilla as a premier tourism destination, accessible to the right prospects and capable of delivering world class visitor experiences that offer excellent value for money. Our strategy is carefully crafted and specifically aimed at encouraging consumers to rediscover the pleasures of Anguilla and reimagine their own desires. In many ways this is the challenge of all high-quality destinations such as ours, that are jostling for the attention of luxury travelers.

The research had already validated our prediction that in this pandemic era, the wealthy would be the first to begin traveling internationally again, once they could be assured that the right safety protocols are in place. Not surprisingly, therefore, our industry partners are indicating an extremely positive response to our pandemic protocols, and our forward bookings give us reason to be optimistic about the future.

While no one can predict the exact path of COVID and its variants, the Government of Anguilla has been adamant about following the science, constantly analyzing the data, and creating an environment that protects our people and our visitors.

Without a doubt, this pandemic will continue to challenge the global travel and tourism industry. The destinations most likely to succeed will be those that are adaptable, while staying completely focused on practical, data-driven solutions. That is precisely what we have done and will continue to do.

So when we talk about reigniting Anguilla’s tourism, we not only intend to rekindle interest in visiting our island paradise, but we will also keep Anguillians centrally involved in the decision-making process, so that our residents are themselves fired up about the future.

This is the reason for the many public consultations we have conducted because nothing gives us greater satisfaction than knowing that our own people feel a strong personal connection with this industry. Why? Because the research consistently shows that the true essence of a visitor’s experience is the connection with the people and the people must always come first and that is why we say, “Anguilla first!”

You and I, fellow Anguillians, are the heart of the industry and the primary reason our visitors enjoy biking, jogging, touring and moking around our beautiful island. Together we will work hand in hand to be the finest hosts in this industry, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because our economic success depends upon it. The work we put into finding solutions to today’s challenges, will help to assure the future of Anguilla.

So Tourism Week is not the beginning, and it is most certainly not the end. It is one more opportunity to reaffirm our need to work together to build a better, stronger Anguilla. In an environment that is fiercely competitive we naturally expect to encounter challenges along the way, but we will overcome them with the certain knowledge that we are working together, not to be daunted by the problems, but to be architects of the solutions.

In closing, I wish every stakeholder and every Anguillian a Tourism Week that is safe, enjoyable, and exceeds all expectation. To you our visitors and friends, I encourage you to lose the crowd and find yourself in Anguilla. I now declare Tourism Week 2021 officially open.

Thank you and may God bless Anguilla and keep everyone safe.