By anguillian January 22, 2018 14:40



Anguilla’s embryonic sports tourism drive got a much-desired boost when the 2018 Anguilla Cup tournament opened with an exciting pro exhibition match at the Tennis Academy on Sunday, January 14. The two exhibiting players were leading international tennis professionals: Jessie Flores of Naples, Florida, and Xavier Malissie of Belgium.

The Anguilla Cup was originally scheduled for November 2017, but had to be postponed due to Hurricane Irma. The tennis event is the result of a dynamic partnership initiated by the Anguilla Tourist Board with Sports Travel Experts; the International Tennis Federation; the Anguilla Tennis Association; the Anguilla Tennis Academy; and the Department of Sports. The exhibition match was a prelude to the Anguilla Cup Tournament from Monday to Saturday this week. The tournament is part of Sports Travel Experts Caribbean Cup Tennis Series which currently includes Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Cayman Islands and Jamaica. The event has attracted a number of players, coaches, tournament officials and guests to Anguilla from all over the world.

The Hon. Parliamentary Secretary, with responsibility for Tourism, Sports, Youth & Culture, Mr. Cardigan Connor, was among the speakers at the Anguilla Cup exhibition match.

“The Anguilla Cup is an important event for our island in many respects,” he told the gathering. “Sports tourism is one of the fastest growing, global travel sectors – and tennis is a natural fit for Anguilla. We have a wonderful facility here, at the Anguilla Tennis Academy, and an enthusiastic fan base. Many of our resorts also have excellent tennis courts, an important factor as we expand and grow this particular event.
“Tennis professionals and amateurs are affluent global travellers who are prepared to venture off the beaten path to seek out vacation destinations where they can also indulge in their passion for tennis. In short, an ideal target audience for Anguilla.”

Mr. Connor continued: “The Anguilla Cup is part of the Caribbean Cup Tennis Series and we seized on the opportunity to become a stop on this tour. Kudos are due to Karl Hale [Tournament Director of the prestigious Rogers Cup in Toronto] for his vision and foresight in creating this tennis circuit which now includes Jamaica, Cayman, Barbados and Antigua, with others to follow. Having a position on this growing Caribbean circuit ensures visibility for our island, gives us credibility as a first rate tennis destination, and affords us a built-in audience that we can leverage and grow each year.”

The Parliamentary Secretary stressed that “the value of the tournament goes beyond the new visitors it brings to the island, the promotional exposure for our destination, and the pleasure we all share in enjoying world-class tennis.” He was delighted that “our local youngsters will have the opportunity to compete against an international field, the best of their class, gaining invaluable experience and confidence in their game.” He thought that “the free tennis clinic is another benefit for our youth, and future events will include a tennis camp.”

Mr. Connor went on: “We are proud of the partnership involving the Anguilla Tourist Board, Sports Travel Experts, the Anguilla Tennis Association, the Anguilla Tennis Academy and the Department of Sports, which has made this possible. It serves as an example of what can be achieved when we work together.

“We congratulate Mitch Lake and his team at the Anguilla Tennis Academy for the tremendous job they have done in getting the facility in shape in time for the Anguilla Cup. We thank them in advance for their diligent labour over the course of the coming week, as they work to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

“We should also note that this event represents the largest group movement to the island since Irma. We hope everyone joins us in getting the word out that Anguilla is back in business and ready to welcome our guests.”

In her welcome remarks, Mrs. Shellya Webster, Manager, Corporate Affairs at the Anguilla Tourist Board, said the ATB was delighted to be the main sponsor of the Anguilla Cup for the past two years. “The organisation prides itself on providing both financial and technical support to events and initiatives that help us to diversify our tourism product and increase our visitor arrivals,” she stated.

In delivering an overview of the tennis event, Tournament Director, Mr. Karl Hale, said that the Anguilla Cup comprised three elements: youth development; enabling players to travel to Anguilla; and charity. He was pleased that the players were from as far as Japan and Norway and the United States. He took the opportunity to announce that his group, Sport Travel Experts, had undertaken to make a donation of US $10,000 to the Alwyn Allison Richardson Primary School, one of the schools damaged by Hurricane Irma.

CEO of the Tennis Academy, Mr. Mitch Lake, gave an update of the facility. He said it was heart-rending that all six courts were destroyed by the hurricane. He was proud that coaches Vallan Hodge-Richardson, Damien Brooks, George Richards and Denny Derrick had worked day and night to restore the facility with the assistance of several other persons and companies.

Mr. Lake was also grateful to Mr. Karl Hale: “Karl has been a great friend and supporter of the Anguilla Tennis Academy and has given the children an opportunity to experience the Toronto Cup.” Among others things, he thanked the Anguilla Tourist Board for supporting the event. “I always believed that sports tourism is the future of Anguilla,” he added.

Director of Sports in Anguilla, Mr. Andre Collins, was grateful to Mr. Lake and his team for restoring the Tennis Academy in order to host the Anguilla Cup. “This year, the Department of Sports has launched its sports policy which is Towards a Happier, Heathier Anguilla. I couldn’t be happier to see so many young people here,” he further commented. “It is events like this that give us the opportunity to see sport played at a higher level.”

The Vote of Thanks was delivered by Mr. Val Banks, President of the Anguilla Tennis Academy. This was followed by the exhibition match by Jesse Flores and Xavier Malisse. The concluding event was a welcome reception for all players, tournament officials and guests.

By anguillian January 22, 2018 14:40


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