Antiguan hotels are expected to put plans in place to prevent any unwanted impact from the sliding British pound before the 2022/23 winter tourism season gets underway in a few months.
The UK is the country’s second-largest tourism source market and Britons were previously expected to flock there in numbers not seen since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the complete shutdown of the local industry two years ago.
However, the British pound has been losing value in recent time, culminating with a record low against the US dollar on Monday, sinking to $1.03 before recovering slightly to $1.07.
That weakening has raised fears that UK visitors will be apprehensive about spending on vacations, including to one of their most loved Caribbean destinations.
Those fears have been recognised by the government, with the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Lionel Hurst telling media during a press briefing on Thursday that the hotels should employ measures to stave off cancellations or a decline in bookings.
“There are about three hotels in Antigua that are the major recipients of British tourists and our expectation is that they are the ones who will make the necessary adjustments in order to ensure that their numbers will continue to increase or certainly not fall off significantly”, he said.
“We don’t know how long this decline of the pound’s value will last. No one knows it, but what we do know is that the second-largest number of people who visit Antigua as tourists come from the UK, therefore, we anticipate that there might be some impact on the number of visitors who will come if the cost of travel from the UK explodes”, the Chief of Staff added.
According to Hurst, there have not yet been any signs of impact on the country’s tourism industry, despite the obvious reason to worry.
“The discussion with those hotels is that, at the moment, [British visitors] have not yet reacted in a way to the decline in the British pound, so it is really the hotels in collaboration with the government that will do their very best to ensure that their customer base isn’t significantly eroded as a consequence of having the pound itself drop in value.
“They would have to pay far many more pounds to stay in a hotel in Antigua and Barbuda, whose prices are quoted in US dollars or the equivalent of US dollars to the pound, when the pound was at a much higher rate.
“There was a time when the British pound was worth more than EC$4.50 and today, it’s worth about EC$2.70, the same as the US dollar. It might be a little bit more than that, but you can see where the problem would emerge”, he said.
The winter tourism season is expected to commence in late November/early December and run until late April/early March next year.
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