ST JOHN’S, Antigua – “I don’t think it’s insurmountable,” said newly elected Chairman of the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association (AHTA), Andrew Hedley, of the challenges facing the industry that has been hard hit by the economic downturn for the past four years like most other areas.
But while he disclosed that upscale properties are already showing signs of recovery, Hedley said others are not faring as well.
“Whilst I think we’re starting to see positive signs of some level of recovery, it is different at different levels of the industry. I feel that the luxury sector of which I’m most familiar is probably recovering a little more readily than the mid-market and the economy sector,” he told OBSERVER Media.
Last week Thursday at the annual general meeting of the AHTA, Hedley – Managing Director of Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort - replaced Alistair Forrest as chairman. Forrest resigned last month to take up a job in Barbados.
Hedley, a former director on the AHTA board, said he was “very excited” about his new post and would use his one-year tenure to increase the association’s profile and presence nationally and internationally.
“It’s time that I was also in a position to give something back to the hospitality industry. Serving as chairman would allow me the opportunity to further the interest of the hotel association and nurture and cultivate the important relationships the body has with the membership, government, the unions and the travelling industry in general,” he explained.
Speaking of the way forward, he said the association would continue to work in tandem with other stakeholders such as the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority.
“It’s working in partnership, extending a hand of support across the industry that we can find ways to success. Maybe we have to change the way we think, traditional ideas and traditional practices, in some cases, are no longer relevant,” he stressed.
Hedley, originally from Kenya, arrived in Antigua in 2004 from Point Grace in the Turks & Caicos Islands to take up the position of general manager of Carlisle Bay. He subsequently moved to Jumby Bay in January 2010.
According to the AHTA, he brings a wealth of experience in the upscale hotel sector, having also worked at Cap Juluca in Anguilla and Peter Island Resort in the BVI.
Meantime, Vernon Jeffers, general manager of Jolly Beach Resort & Spa was elected last Thursday as the AHTA’s first vice-chairman and Alex deBrito, senior VP hotel operations with Elite Island Resorts, as second vice-chairman.
Christopher Eastman, the new general manager at Curtain Bluff, was voted in as a board director to fill the spot left vacant by Hedley.