“COME TO ANGUILLA: WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS”

anguillian
By anguillian October 16, 2017 11:19

 

 

 

The Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Association (AHTA) has a message for travellers in the regional and international marketplace. The message is that, although the larger and luxurious properties are closed for one reason or the other, including the slow season and the effects of Hurricane Irma, some of the smaller accommodation facilities and restaurants are either already opened or just about to open and so visitors can “Come to Anguilla: We are open for business.”

These and other sentiments were expressed when the AHTA President, Mr. Delroy Lake, the Vice President, Mrs. Janine Edwards, and the Executive Director, Mrs. Gilda Gumbs-Samuel, turned up for an interview at The Anguillian – this week – on the way forward following Hurricane Irma.
“One of the main things we are doing, apart from the hard work on the ground, is trying to get the word out there that Anguilla is open for business,” Mrs. Edwards stressed. “We are encouraging all our members to open up. We are trying to coordinate with the Tourist Board, and the other powers that be, to ensure that a positive message is projected. You will be surprised that the news is not getting out there on the internet and this can cause people to actually cancel coming to Anguilla. When you have no information, people think the worst. So we really want to put a positive message out there that Anguilla is open for business. We are working day in day out to ensure that we can welcome our guests back, and we want to ensure that we have a positive 2018 season.

“We don’t want to wish the season goodbye. We want to ensure that we have a season. It may not be the bumper season we normally have, but the message to our visitors is to still keep your plans to come to Anguilla. We will have quite a number of properties and restaurants open for business. Even activities are opening up. We see some of the bars and the entertainment places coming up and the musicians are ready to go. We can get so creative that even if some of the larger hotels are closed we can put chefs into villas and the smaller hotels. There is so much we can do, so our message is a very positive message. It is that we are resilient and we are open for business in the coming season. We may be on hold for a couple of weeks but bit by bit we are opening up and we are ready to welcome guests.”

Earlier, Mrs. Edwards reported that there were some repeat visitors who said they were willing to come back to Anguilla to spend their money, and to support the rebuilding of the island, although they realised everything would not be perfect.

Mr. Lake commented: “I would say there are a lot of positive things happening in Anguilla already. There are a number of restaurants opened. They may not be some of the big names, but it is an opportunity when you come to Anguilla to probably experience a part of the island that you never did. A lot of people come to Anguilla and go to Banchards, Mangos and other restaurants, but a lot of them probably never went to Tasty’s, Ev’s Oven, Dad’s or one of the other local restaurants – but Anguilla has a lot to offer. I think that by my most recent count there may be nine other local restaurants including Ocean Echo, Flavours, Johnnos and Roys. There is a lot to do on Anguilla. Yes, we got battered by Hurricane Irma, but we didn’t die. We are open for business.

“If you stayed at one type of hotel and you want to come to Anguilla, your hotel might not be open, but a villa or a smaller property may. Anguilla is about an experience. It is not necessarily about the hotel you stay at. A lot of times the person who comes back to Anguilla time and time again tells you it has nothing to do with the restaurant or hotel. It has to do with the people. We are the ones that make that vacation enjoyable. We are still here with open arms to welcome our tourists to the island.”

As with the case of several local restaurants, a number of accommodation properties are opening, as Mr. Lake observed. “The good news is that there are certain hotels that were not severely impacted. I will call a few names: Shoal Bay Villas, Manoah, Carimar Beach Club and La Vue. So our visitors can book with them.”

Referring to the larger properties, he went on: “The feeling that we are getting from our members is that they had lots of damage. From that conversation, we asked two questions at a meeting with them two weeks ago: What is your proposed opening date? For many of them, that date was early to mid-2018. The second question we asked was what was their concern relating to their business going forward? First and foremost was the fact that the electricity company had predicted that it is going to take between 5-6 months before the entire island has electricity. That is important because a lot of our villa members are off the beaten track – out on the sea rocks. Most likely, in many cases, those properties are going to be at the last end of getting electricity.”

Lake continued: “The other thing mentioned was access to the island – the fact that St. Maarten is our major hub and that island was badly affected by the hurricane. With 90% of our business going through St. Maarten, hotel and villa owners in Anguilla are concerned that they are facing a problem getting their guests here. I must say kudos to Trans-Anguilla and Anguilla Air Services. In the last couple of weeks they have stepped up and we made St. Kitts our secondary hub. Everyone going to or coming from anywhere has to travel to St. Kitts and, in the future, that may be something for us to look at in terms of moving a lot of our people through St. Kitts and not being heavily dependent on St. Maarten. But our members’ key concerns were basically electricity and, by extension, other essential services like internet and other communications.”

The Hotel and Tourism Association President further stated: “We are hurt, but it is a resilient bunch of people in the hotel sector just like Anguillians are resilient. My personal concern is employment. The tourism sector provides direct employment for approximately 1500 persons plus the spin-offs. If a hotel is going to be out, until say June, it means…that a lot of people in Anguilla will be unemployed in the immediate future. Another concern is that some of the restaurants that tourists come to Anguilla for, may not be open in the immediate future like on November 1 or 15. Their concern is also that they rely heavily on the big hotels and, based on the hurricane damage they sustained, a lot of those hotels are not going to be open before early to mid-2018.”

Lake added: “In a way we are damaged, but we are not down. We are going to rise again.”

Mrs. Gilda Gumbs-Samuel spoke about her difficult role as Executive Director of the AHTA in terms of working with the member hotels in these challenging times, but she was generally pleased with their cooperation and understanding. She was grateful to three properties – Shoal Bay Villas owned by Kathy Haskins, Zemi Beach and Carimar which reopened shortly after the hurricane so that the AHTA could assist the Government with finding accommodation for various visiting officials and other first response teams.

She also took the opportunity to highly commend the hotel employees saying that 90% of them undertook to clean up the hotels themselves in the absence, overseas, of the owners and managers.

All three AHTA officials, Mrs. Gumbs-Samuel; Mrs. Janine Edwards, Vice President, and Mr. Delroy Lake, President, were happy to say that, despite certain delays and lack of services, life was returning to normal in the hospitality sector. In particular, with the reopening of some of the smaller properties and ancillary services including several restaurants, Anguilla is open for business.

anguillian
By anguillian October 16, 2017 11:19
  • Anonymous

    “Joy cometh in the morning…a setback is a setup for a comeback”. Rempert, I am on board with you..it took a devastating hurricane for the smaller business and villas to be mentioned in an article…I just hope that equal treatment are given to those who are struggling to rebuild the lives, in life there is hope, keep hope alive..there is a brighter light at the end of the tunnel and it shines so bright till a new day has dawned…get up dust off and keep moving forward..God bless you.

  • Renee Rempert

    Its not only the lack of power which will effect a Villa’s ability to generate rental income income for the Anguilla economy, but the fact that there has been no movement on the waiver/reduction of duties on the cost of shipping and cost of replacement items needed to restore these income generating villas to their former splendor. Anguilla needs revenue and the villa rentals are an excellent source of generating that revenue. Please work with the GOA and see if any movement in this area can be made. We have invested in Anguilla and now we need Anguilla to invest in us – especially because much of what we need to replace can not be found on island at this time. We are only asking to replace what we had before the hurricane – these are items on which we have already paid duty. Thank you for considering my request

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