Anguilla is funding infrastructure improvements to help its tourism industry. But this does not mean that the island is changing its tourism strategy.
The island has traditionally shied away from visiting crowds — it’s not all-inclusive and it’s not a cruise ship destination — and has instead chosen to attract a smaller number of guests from a more affluent demographic. And the game plan is not changing. On the contrary, Anguilla tourism officials say they would like to see more of those desired guests visiting the island and believe improvements to the ferry terminal and airport will help achieve that goal.
Last month, the island opened the new Blowing Point Ferry Terminal, moving from a temporary home that served as the island’s main entry point since 2017’s Hurricane Irma destroyed the island’s former terminal. The terminal receives ferry service from St. Martin and private charter service from St. Maarten.
The new terminal plays a vital role in handling visitors. In September, the latest figures available from the government, 83% of all arrivals to Anguilla came by sea and 91% of those visitors entered the ferry terminal.
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“This administration made a commitment to significantly modernize Anguilla’s infrastructure, for the benefit of our visitors and most importantly, our island community,” said Haydn Hughes, Anguilla’s Minister of Infrastructure, Communications, Housing, Municipal Services and Tourism. “The opening of the Blowing Point Ferry Terminal is another commitment accomplished, along with the redesign of Valley Main Street, recent improvements to the airport and the development of the Airport’s 20-year Master Plan. We are immediately improving the visitor experience and improving of the lives of our local residents.”
While sea arrivals have far outstripped air arrivals, the recent addition of non-stop commercial flights and private charters means there will be more visitors arriving by air. The Clayton J. Lloyd Airport’s 20-year master plan forecast states that, from 2022 to 2041, the island expects an 11.5% annual increase in air passengers.
To accommodate the increased number of visitors, the government is adding a new terminal to the airport and then expanding its runway. The extension is required for current commercial aircraft to operate with maximum passenger loads and to attract new operators and destinations, as well as to accommodate larger aircraft.
“We believe we can double the number of arrivals on the island as access has been our biggest challenge,” Hughes said. “Time is currency, and the length of time it takes to get to our destination has proven to be draining for many. The improved and expanded terminals will be able to facilitate larger commercial carriers from our most important gateways in the Americas of the North and Canada. The increase in arrivals will not necessitate an increase in room inventory, but what it will do is ensure that occupancy levels and economic activity remain stable and sustainable.”
Even with the airport’s improvements, Hughes doesn’t see a change in the way visitors arrive. “We don’t believe that [flights] will reduce arrivals from the ocean. On the contrary, it will increase arrivals by air,” Hughes said. “There’s a charm that visitors also like to arrive by ocean, and that’s not going to go away.”
It’s not just the government spending money to attract visitors. Aurora Anguilla Resort and Golf Club, one of the newest resorts on the island, offers non-stop charters from New York and Fort Lauderdale to Anguilla for its guests. The flights are operated by Best Jets International, which is owned, like the resort, by Best Buy founder Richard Schulze.
“[Anguilla] it caters to those with a taste for fine five-star accommodations and great food,” Hughes said. “But it’s not a lower-priced destination. Easier travel won’t change demographics, but it will allow time-conscious people to see the value of a much shorter trip to paradise.”
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