Tameka Wharton is on a mission.
As the sales and marketing manager for the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Board in Canada, it’s a simple one: to ensure that Canadians make Antigua part of their travel plans this winter.
To help her achieve this goal, Wharton assembled ten travel agents representing agencies from Newfoundland to British Columbia and brought them to Antigua from November 11th through 14th to see the topical island for themselves.
PAX tagged along on the island adventure to report back on what this motley crew dubbed “Unforgettable Antigua.”
Travel for all budgets
According to Wharton, travellers often think of Antigua as being a luxury destination, but that isn’t always the case. While there are some outstanding five-star experiences on the island, there are also affordable and fantastic options in the three and four-star categories.
The Starfish Jolly Beach sits on the magnificent Mile Long Beach, known to locals as the “best beach by a mile.” This three-star resort is so popular that it is already sold out to Canadian tour operators over many popular dates, according to Wharton. The Ocean Point Resort & Spa is a smaller resort located a short seven minute drive from V. C. Bird International Airport. It has a quaint, rustic Mediterranean feel. Its’ all-inclusive meal packages include to-go lunches packed in a cooler for people who want to venture off property. The Halcyon Cove by Rex Resorts has started receiving some tender loving care in the form of guest room renovations, with more to come once Starfish takes over the property in December.
After years of sending her budget conscious clients to Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Mexico, Lynda Harlos, a travel agent with Orion Travelinx in Burlington says: “They want to try something different, but at a price point they can afford.”
After Sunwing’s inaugural flight in 2017, and increased lift from WestJet and Air Canada, Antigua is now able to cater to a wider range of budgets, especially with departures from Toronto.
Eco-adventures and hilltop BBQs
In addition to hitting the mark with their pocketbooks, Antigua is great for travellers interested in eco-adventures. It is a lush mountainous island that is home to several rainforests and national parks, including the spectacular Devil’s Bridge.
A number of excursions are available, including with Antigua Rainforest Canopy Tours, one of the better zip lining adventures in the Caribbean, according to Harlos.
A highlight for the group was our infiltration of the Sunday night party at Shirley Heights. Locals and tourists alike come together to eat BBQ, drink and dance to live music while overlooking the twinkling lights of English Harbour. We all agreed it was best enjoyed as a group outing. During peak season the party is offered up on Thursday nights as well.
“The people here are great,” enthused Shannon LeHouillier, a travel consultant with SellOffVacations.com. “Everyone is extremely friendly, no one is pushy and I feel safe and respected. I would definitely recommend Antigua for girls-only trips and I would not say that about every island.”
Now that this group is back home on Canadian soil, our undertaking continues as we work to collectively spread the word. “Of course we do luxury well,” Wharton told us in her parting words. “But remember, if Canadians want no frills, we can do that too!”
Loren Christie is a Toronto-based writer.