5 things agents should know about Antigua and Barbuda
This week, Antigua and Barbuda Tourism is hosting 12 Canadian travel agents, and one media outlet, (PAX), to showcase some of Antigua’s hidden gems. It’s been a busy week of touring the island and its many attractions and hotels. Here’s what we’ve discovered about the Caribbean island so far:
Roadside eating is local eating
As our driver Jace Gore of Auto Elite Rentals and Transportation shuttled us from the airport to the Verandah Resort and Spa, we passed a couple of roadside barbecues, and even waited while a woman carried takeout from her home to pass to a driver blocking the road. This is apparently a very common Friday and Saturday occurrence in Antigua, and to properly experience it, we stopped at Roxanne Barnes’ “Seafood Saturdays” in Saint John’s, the country’s capital.
Barbecue bliss at the Sunday Sunset Party at Shirley Heights Lookout
The main dishes ranged from steamed fish to chicken and pasta, served in styrofoam containers. While the mains were fresh and delicious, it’s the bread pudding soaked in a vanilla rum sauce that David Humphrey of Sears Travel raved about.
That said, my favourite BBQ experience was up in the hills at the Shirley Heights Lookout during their music-filled Sunday Sunset Party. Even on an overcast day, the view was spectacular. According to Gail Lea of Vasco Travel, the chicken was delicious, and I can vouch for the ribs.
How to sound like a local
If you want to compliment the chef, and get a laugh at the same time, say the meal was “bang good.” If you eat something sour, and are prepared to be slightly risqué, you can say it will “cut your nature,” which means it will “impact your reproductive ability” (wink, wink). But if you’re sweet for someone, you can’t beat saying, “me lub you bad,” which means I love you a lot.
Antigua is drought ready
The island at times struggles with its fresh water supply, and it’s common to see large rain tanks at the sides of homes. To help meet its needs, the Verandah Hotel and Resort takes water conservation seriously, reusing what it can, and has invested in its own reverse osmosis plant to convert ocean water into drinking water.
Antigua takes water conservation seriously
Other environmentally friendly features at the resort include solar hot water tanks and growing some of their own veggies. One agent said he had clients stay here in April and “they loved it.” The resort boasts three beaches, mini putt, and is currently building a new class of villa with two bedrooms and its own plunge pool, expected to be completed by October. Most importantly, the resort has enough beach chairs for everyone.
Antigua and Barbuda are closer than you might think
For those flying out of Toronto, it was just a four hour direct flight on WestJet — less time than it takes to fly to Vancouver. At the moment, the U.S. and the U.K. are much bigger markets than Canada, but the tourism bureau hopes that FAM trips like this one will help them expand their Canadian client base.
The Outhouse is the place to be
The Pineapple Beach Club resort is closing down Aug. 25 and reopening on Oct. 1 as they transition into an adults-only property. That includes upgrades to the bathrooms, rooms with single beds for non-couples travelling together, and more accessibility to ocean view suites for those with mobility challenges.
But to maintain its reputation as a laid-back, all-inclusive resort on the island, they are keeping their infamous “Outhouse.” It’s a quirky open air area that serves BBQ lunches at picnic tables surrounded by wooden signs written on by past guests, then nailed to pretty much anything and everything. The vibe is shabby chic, with a breezy, over the ocean view.