The tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda is flying high. Literally. On Aug. 10, two citizens of the island ventured into space on the Virgin Galactic 02 Spacecraft, making Keisha Schahaff and her daughter Anastatia Mayers worldwide celebrities, but also blasting their country into the international spotlight.
At 18 years of age, Ana was the youngest person (by two weeks) ever to go to space. Keisha and Ana were also the first mother and daughter and the first people from the Caribbean to make the journey into the cosmos, and only the 6th and 7th Black women to travel to space.
And while the entire nation of Antigua and Barbuda erupted in a jubilant display of national pride, the Virgin Galactic Global Livestream of the spaceflight was also broadcast on massive screens at a public Watch Party in Antigua, with images of the local festivities in turn beamed out to the global audience.
During an interview with Travel Industry Today, Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) CEO Colin C. James, positively beamed at the “big event” that included the Antigua passengers (who had won tickets to take part).
“We went up with our flag and our pink sand and we really, really, ensured that we were picked up globally – which we were: over 400 news agencies picked up the story,” he said. “So, that’s really trending right now. Our flags sold out on Amazon and we really capitalized on the opportunity to raise Antigua-Barbuda’s profile – not just with the travel trade, but with media around the globe.”
Indeed, James joked that he’s considering targeting “the Martian market” as soon as he has money to spend.
“If the price is right, come on down,” he laughed.
Closer to home, James says flight service is back to post pandemic levels with a flight every day from Canada, including five rotations from Air Canada, two from WestJet, and one from Sunwing.
And with flights from Toronto and Montreal typically clocking in at about 4-1/2 hours, he says, “We can have you on the beach by afternoon.”
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is located in the heart of the Caribbean Sea and boasts ideal year-round temperatures. The twin-island destination offers visitors two uniquely distinct experiences grounded in a rich history, vibrant culture, varied excursions, award-winning resorts, unique cuisine, and 365 stunning pink and white-sand beaches – one for every day of the year.
The largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands, Antigua comprises 280 sq. km. of spectacular topography with a variety of sightseeing opportunities, including Nelson’s Dockyard, the only remaining example of a Georgian fort and a listed UNESCO World Heritage site.
Jones noted that romance and weddings are a key focus of Antigua-Barbuda’s marketing strategy, with about 1,200 destination weddings taking place each year on the islands.
Other tourism pillars include sailing, wellness/hiking, and heritage & culture.
Reflecting those themes, Antigua’s tourism events calendar includes Antigua and Barbuda Wellness Month (June), Run in Paradise (May), Antigua Sailing Week (April-May), Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta (April), Romance Month (June), and the annual Antigua Carnival (July-Aug.).
Meanwhile, Barbuda, Antigua’s smaller sister island, is the ultimate celebrity hideaway. The island lies 43 km north-east of Antigua and is just a 15-minute plane ride away. Barbuda is known for its untouched 18 km stretch of pink sand beach and as the home of the largest Frigate Bird Sanctuary in the Western Hemisphere.
First published at Travel Industry Today