Considered ideal island getaways during the high season, Antigua and Barbuda offer ideal vacation destinations even during the off season. Decisive Media visited for four days during the height of the hurricane season in August, ostensibly to build business relations after our successful Ford Motor Company/Antigua sweepstakes (the lucky winner had only to register at www.Decisivemagazine.com and visit www.Ford.com to check out the new Taurus Sho for a chance to win a trip for two), though I must admit, we also had hopes for a little relaxation, as well!
During our trip, we learned that Antigua and Barbuda are not only wonderful tourist destinations, but also great places to do business. There was so much to see, so many people to meet, and all in such a short time, we strongly recommend a one-week minimum visit. We found American Airlines to have some of the best flights to Antigua, and thanks to a connection, in San Juan , we were able to enjoy a nice relaxing stop there before boarding for our final destination!
Although many first-class hotels and resorts are located in Antigua, none are more fitting for the business traveler than Sugar Ridge. Recently opened in December of 2009, its location on a hillside, overlooks palm tree beaches and the Caribbean Sea. Sugar Ridge offers all the conveniences for the business traveler, including wireless access, LCD flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations, the Islands first Aveda Concept Spa, fitness center, three swimming pools, two restaurants and two bars. If that’s not enough, the Islands top 18-hole golf course is just a three-minute shuttle ride away.
With only one day set aside for relaxing, we planned to spend it on the beautiful white sand beaches of Antigua and the pink sand of Barbuda, but Hurricane Earl rained on that parade. Strangely, the storm was exciting and not the least bit frightening. At the Marina Yacht Club, we were surrounded by experienced and weathered sailors. Up to the minute forecasts were discussed , dissected, and bandied about by everyone so, we felt safe. Though not regatta season, many boats remained, waiting patiently for one of the biggest yacht races of the seas, the Antigua Classic Regatta that begins preparation in November and culminates in April.
We were well protected from the elements in our four-star Antigua Yacht Club Resort suite overlooking the historic English Harbour. One of the most convenient hotels on the island, the Antigua Yacht Club Marina Resort is just minutes away from Pigeon Beach, which is rated one of the top beaches on the island.
Although many hotels and resturants close down or operate at reduced hours during the off-season, we didn't notice a lack of service. Tourism represents over 60 percent of Antigua’s economy and hospitality remains a top priority. Located on Falmouth Harbour, St. Paul's Parish is surrounded by small resturants and shops.
We arrived late to Antigua after a long flight from Baltimore to San Juan, and then finally on to Antigua. The resort manager, Eloise Green, made arrangements for us to check in with ease, and despite the lateness of the hour, we were still able to walk to a local haunt, The Cockpit. This establishment served some of the best fish and chips ever (not to mention an island fav’ Rum Punch)!
The next morning, we found another generous spot within walking distance, The Skullduggery coffee shop, which sits on the marina, and was a favorite hangout and wireless hotspot for sailors and others like ourselves who stopped to check in online.
Thanks to the generosity of local promoters Selwyn James and Erma, we were booked on a 90-minute yacht sail to the exclusive island of Barbuda on the “Excellence.” With more than 17 miles of white and pink sand beaches, Barbuda is also home to one of the most spectacular bird sanctuaries to be seen. A short boat ride took us to Codrington Lagoon National Park to see hundreds of rare birds. Other sites to experience in Barbuda included the Two Foot Bay Caves inhabited by Indians around 200 B.C. and a salt-water lagoon. Though only 1500 Islanders live on the island, it offers the perfect place for a quiet mini-vacation.
While the world economic crisis has been especially hard on the Caribbean, which depends on tourism and foreign investments. Antigua does not exhibit the abject poverty often seen on other islands. Antiguans appear self-sufficient, and capable. Their British heritage and work ethic is a perfect balance with their warm, hospitable island spirit, and pride.
The Caribbean is the third top tourist destination, but world travel was down about 24 percent in 2009, which gave Antiguans more reason to diversify. Antigua and many other Caribbean islands have many natural resources, in fact, we picked and ate local guava and mango from the trees nestled alongside the roads, some of which went directly into the delicious English Harbour Rum, one of the finest to be had.
Antigua has a skilled, English speaking, workforce, economic stability, and now more focus and assistance from the government. Programs are being instituted currently and laws have been changed to make it easier to do business in Antigua. They are eager for development and especially welcome socially conscious businesses and investors. Trade will help them develop untapped talent and create additional resources, included are; agriculture, call centers, manufacturing, tourism infrastructure, and other services.
While, Antigua and other Caribbean Islands import much of their products from the United States, a more balanced trade association and additional partnerships with American businesses will certainly turn this “diamond in the rough” into the polished gem it can be. Recently, the Obama administration signaled change by announcing a desire to make trade a priority. Let’s hope financing is provided which will create resources for more small businesses to partner with developing countries and our neighboring islands.
Calendar of Activies in Antigua: .
• 22 / 30 September - De Jam Music Festival - Read more
For more Info: www.dejamfestival.com
• 7th Annual Sizzlin' Sand Beach Volley Ball Tournament
For More Info: www.sizzlinsand.com
• 7th Annual World Gospel Festival
• 3 October - The Frances Nunes Jr. Memorial Fishing Tournament & Seafood Festival - Read More
For More Info: www.antiguabarbudasportfishing.com
• Independence Day (November 1st)
• 12 / 14 November - Ocean Breeze Music Festival & Conference - Read More
For More Info: www.oceanbreezemusicfestival.com
• Antigua & Barbuda Literary Festival
For More Info: www.antiguaandbarbudaliteraryfestival.com
• Moods of Pan Festival (by Gemonites Steel Orchestra)
• National Tourism Week (Ministry of Tourism)
• 27 / 29 November - Jolly Harbour Yatch Club Annual Regatta
• 6 / 11 December - 49th Annual Charter Yatch Show
For More Info: www.antigua-charter-yacht-meeting.com
• Heroes Day: Read more
• Antigua Yatch Club "Nelson's Pursuit"