Last updated: 08:09 PM ET, Tue January 12 2016

Antigua Terminates Head Of US And Canada Tourist Office

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | January 12, 2016

Antigua Terminates Head Of US And Canada Tourist Office

PHOTO: Antigua tourism officials are seeking to reverse declining tourist arrivals. (Photo by Brian Major).  

The government of Antigua & Barbuda is engaged in a variety of high-level tourism initiatives as the dual-island nation seeks to revive its flat visitor arrivals. But the nation’s tourism agenda will proceed without the head of its U.S. and Canadian tourist office, who was relieved of her duties last week.

Marie Walker, vice president of sales and marketing for the United States and Canadian markets for the Antigua & Barbuda Tourist Authority (ABTA), has left her position in the first year of a two-year contract.

Max Hurst, chief of staff in the office of Gaston Browne, the country's prime minister, issued a release late Tuesday stating Walker and the ABTA reached a "mutual and amicable agreement" to end their contractual agreement.

"I'm incredibly proud of the accomplishments the North American office achieved during my tenure to increase visibility and airlift to Antigua and Barbuda," Walker said Tuesday. "We negotiated new service with JetBlue that increases airlift by 23,400 seats annually, lowering airfares in our most critical market in the US, New York, to $260 round-trip."

READ MORE: Revamped Antigua Airport Highlights 'Aggressive' Tourism Investment

Walker said Antigua's advertising impressions totaled over 390 million during her tenure and the country's October visitor arrivals from the U.S. increased 2.7 percent versus 2014. "I wish Antigua and Barbuda nothing but the best, and that they continue to see positive turnaround for the tourism industry," she added.  

Walker’s departure followed a recent U.S. visit by Rohan Hector and Colin James, ABTA’s chairman and chief executive officer, respectively and Shirlene Nibbs, a consultant in the country’s ministry of tourism, to “assess the state of the office”  according to an Antigua Observer report.

Walker was named to her position last January in an announcement by Asot Michael, Antigua and Barbuda’s minister of tourism, economic development investment and energy.  Her appointment was described in the Observer report as part of a government strategy to align its US and Canadian travel markets.

A longtime Caribbean tourism marketing professional, Walker previously served as the director of North America for the Anguilla Tourist Board.

Antigua last year launched an aggressive program of new tourism infrastructure developments including the launch of a new 247,569-square-foot terminal at V.C. Bird International Airport last August. The government is also partnering with Academy Award-winning actor Robert DeNiro to open Paradise Found, a $250 million, 391-acre resort development on the site of Barbuda’s former K Club resort.

READ MORE: Antigua Enlists Star Power in Pushing Tourism Development

The dual-island nation posted lower tourist arrivals growth in the first half of 2015. The country’s 116,570 land-based visitor arrivals between January and May of 2015 represent a 4.2 percent decline from the same period in 2014, according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) statistics. The country hosted 249,316 overnight visitors in 2014, a modest 2.5 percent increase over 2013. 

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