11 JUL 2016: There was a lot of excitement in the air last week when Colin Skerritt – the new director of tourism at the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority in Canada - welcomed a coterie of travel professionals, destination officials and local travel media to the Gardiner Museum. Guests heard that the selection process wasn’t an arduous one, judging by Skerritt’s distinguished travel tourism background and his Antiguan roots .

He’s been an airline heavyweight with previous stints at Air Canada where he managed the airline’s largest corporate and leisure travel management partners and gained significant press coverage as the host of the Air Canada Vacations national programme rollout which featured a series of town hall press events for over 3,500 travel agents across Canada.

At Virgin Atlantic Airways he was a corporate sales manager and developed strategic travel partnerships in Antigua, Jamaica and St. Lucia with a focus on the expansion of Caribbean business travel to the United Kingdom.

He is a Caribbean expert and, as Colin James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, noted – Skerritt, who is the other Colin - is now prepped to be ‘the’ expert of Antigua.

James briefly explained the new Canadian director’s role, which is to oversee Antigua and Barbuda’s third largest source market.

“Our objective is to increase visibility and prominence of Antigua and Barbuda in Canada. With a new airport, increased opportunities for airlift and multiple new properties on the horizon, it is an exciting time to take on this role and Colin’s experience makes him the most qualified to achieve these goals.”

The timing couldn’t have been better.

The newly expanded, US $100-million, traveller friendly airport terminal at the V.C. Bird International Airport in St. John’s Antigua opened last August. The state-of-the-art facility is the largest gateway to the Eastern Caribbean and has plenty of bells and whistles. New arrivals can expect speedy immigration processing times and a unique, state-of-the-art baggage sorting and scanning system. For departures, picture 46 check-in counters, 15 self-check in kiosks, a bigger departure lounge, and pet restrooms among other features.

“You will leave (Toronto) 8:30 in the morning and by 1:30 in the afternoon you are out on the beach,” said James and added, “That’s what it’s all about,” as he described the duo island beauty and the charm of “experiencing the most hospitable and warm people you can find anywhere on this planet.”

There is year-round air service from YYZ with Air Canada and WestJet, but Skerritt told Travel Industry Today that while Antigua and Barbuda are well serviced by those airlines, “Coming into it, there will be a stronger push from me to strengthen those partnerships and look for more opportunities to increase lift.” Skerritt acknowledged during Canada’s summer season this period also could better serve the groups and meetings and incentives industry.

The new director of tourism hit the ground running, assuming his latest role with ease and enthusiasm - he had assumed the position only hours before meeting his guests. He told us how he plans to work more effectively with travel agents.

“We’re at an interesting point right now. My background comes from airline partnerships so I have very strong ties with the travel trade community. For incentives these will be well tailored to the agents,” and he added, “I will be looking at putting together very specific incentives for Antigua and Barbuda and for the agents.

“I think they will be quite excited. It will be kind of like a rebranding of the product. With the incentives we’ll have in place I think the agents will really love to sell the product and to see the support of Antigua and Barbuda that they haven’t yet seen before.”

The largest of the Leeward Islands, Antigua and Barbuda comprise 108-square miles. It’s often said that the island duo which has 365 beaches has a beach for every day of the year that can be enjoyed.

 

Antigua and Barbuda Event
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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