Tourism Minister fires back as his performance is criticised

Asot Michael

Tourism Minister Asot Michael has fired back at the United Progressive Party and its leader Harold Lovell following a year to date decline in the arrival of visitors to the twin island.

Yesterday, the UPP demanded that Michael give an account of his stewardship over the past 3 years and present his plans and strategies to address what is forecasted to be a “dismal off-season.”

Lovell added that the performance of tourism so far this year is a “management issue.”

However, in a fiery statement, the tourism minister called Lovell’s statement “misleading and mischievous.”

Michael also attacked Lovell’s own performance as tourism minister and finance minister.

“We should all recall that Lovell held the portfolio of Tourism Minister throughout the period of the industry’s worst decline.  So much so that Baldwin Spencer had to take away the portfolio.  He did worse as Minister of Finance, plunging the economy into disaster, racking up enormous unpaid debt, and depriving the people of Antigua and Barbuda of employment and money.”

While the minister admitted that has been a decline in visitors up to the end of June, he suggested that the performance of the economy cannot be measured by that alone.

“The performance of tourism in the economy and in the provision of income to the industry and jobs for the people is measured as much by the amount of money that is earned as by the numbers of visitors,” he said.

He added that the revenue from the ABST 2% tax received by the Tourism Authority increased from EC$4.8 million to EC$5.5 million.

“It stands to reason, by simple arithmetic, that the government revenues from the remaining 10% of the ABST would also have increased and so too would have the income to the private sector, including hotels and resorts.”

As a result, the minister argues that “neither the hotels nor their employees have lost income.”

The minister said the necessary consultations will be held but because they were planned before not because Lovell called for them.

He said the UPP deliberately left out the arrivals for Italy which increased by 21 per cent over the same period last year.

According to Michael, the arrivals recorded under his leadership are far better than what the UPP was able to achieve.

The ministry of tourism expects the number of arrivals and revenues for 2017 to exceed those of 2016 despite the slow start.

“We have put in place strategies for dealing with global events that are affecting tourism.  For example, there will significant increases in airlift from our Canadian, European and markets,” according to Michael.

He says  Lovell’s purpose is to alarm tourism workers and shake confidence in the industry.

According to the latest statistics obtained by Antigua News Room and repeated in a United Progressive Party release, the month of June recorded a 9 per cent drop in arrivals from all major source markets.
Antigua & Barbuda’s major source market the US saw a 10 per cent decline in arrivals or more than 6,000 visitors. The decline has been steady since January.
As of June, there was a decline of 2 per cent in the UK, Canada 7 per cent decline and the Caribbean 8 per cent.

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