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July 19--youri@caribbeannewsnow.com

ST JOHN'S, Antigua -- Tourism officials from the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) report that there has been strong growth in the sector already in 2018, as visitor arrivals by air from January to June are estimated at 148,000, with significant increases in the key source markets for the destination: US, Canada, UK and Caribbean.

The ABTA stated that this represents a seven percent increase from the year, 2017, with the closest year in comparison for the destination was in 2008 with a total of 146,935.

The minister of tourism, economic development and investment, Charles 'Max' Fernandez, said: "We are excited by this positive momentum in growth of arrivals, both by cruise and air. It is incredibly encouraging for the tourism industry, and I would like to congratulate the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, the private sector, stakeholders and all our tourism partners in helping us to reach these positive results for the first six months of the year. We will not rest on our laurels, and are striving for better. We will continue to invest in infrastructure and service and raise awareness of Antigua and Barbuda, to ensure we see consistent growth in arrivals."

According to the World Tourism & Travel Council (WTTC) Tourism and Economic Impact Report for Antigua and Barbuda for 2017, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was EC$525.6 million (US$194.7 million), which amounts to an estimated 13.0 percent of total GDP in 2017.

The WTTC stated that GDP contribution for the country is also forecasted to rise by 3.4 percent in 2018, and to further rise by 4.7 percent annually, from 2018-2028, to EC$861.4 million (US$319.0 million), to an estimate of 15.6 percent of total GDP in 2028.

Tourism officials in Antigua also indicated that in the month of June 2018 there were significant increases, with Canada getting the greatest year-over-year increase by over 170 percent following by the USA with 14.35 percent; the wider Caribbean by 8.69 percent; and the UK with 8.27 percent.

In addition, there was an average 11.57 percent increase in sea arrivals, 502,527 from January -- May, and an average 8.6 percent growth in occupancy rates.

According to the WTTC's World Ranking out of 185 countries, the relative importance of travel and tourism's total contribution to GDP, Antigua and Barbuda ranks eighth in relative size and 52 in long-term growth for the 2017-2028 projected seasons.

Also according to the WTTC, travel and tourism generated 5,000 jobs directly in 2017 (13.5 percent of total employment) and their forecast is set to remain the same in 2018 at 5,000 (13.6 percent of total employment). This includes employment by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services (excluding commuter services). It also includes, for example, the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists.

Whether or not the WTTC will make upward revisions to their forecasts for Antigua and Barbuda based on new information released by the ABTA is not determined. However, this would not be uncommon as the estimates and figures are understood to not be constant and may change due to other factors, both negative and positive.

CEO of the ABTA, Colin C. James, said: "The first half of 2018 has shown incredible improvement, especially in our key source markets. We look forward to relentlessly working towards attracting new and returning visitors, improving our on-island tourism products as well as increasing access through our award-winning airport and port. We are doubling our airlift out of Miami, introducing new direct service out of New York and Canada, and welcoming new cruise ships to an already busy schedule. Combined with our aggressive marketing strategies, we are confident that we will continue to see remarkable growth for the second half of the year."

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