The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) hosted its first-ever Wellness Tourism Forum yesterday at the White House Events Centre on Ffryes Beach.
It was the twin islands’ starting move toward uncharted territory – becoming the first wellness destination in the Caribbean.
CEO of the ABTA Colin James set the tone for the day’s event, saying: “The aim of this wellness program is to position Antigua and Barbuda as the wellness destination and to establish various unique selling points of this fastest growing niche market; and so if tourism is the wheel and epicenter upon which our country’s economy turns, it stands to reason that there must be several spokes supporting this wheel.”
Speaking to OBSERVER media, Anne Dimon – president of the North America-based Wellness Tourism Association – said, “I’m hoping that as they [Antigua and Barbuda] launch the new initiative with my help, they will become a member and be the first to qualify…but they are a few things they have to do to launch it [the initiative].”
Dimon was also responsible for conducting an island-wide audit with tourism stakeholders to get their take on the country’s main industry. She said the surveys were sent out to participants who answered questions about the challenges and strengths under the umbrella of wellness tourism.
The results will be discussed in a meeting with the stakeholders and ministry officials today.
Health Minister Molwyn Joseph, other officials from the ABTA, tourism stakeholders, and local wellness providers also attended the ground-breaking event.
Health Minister Joseph briefly highlighted the importance of wellness.
“The Caribbean leaders declared that non-communicable diseases should be the concern of every state in CARICOM. That was a declaration that resounded so widely that the United Nations took up what you would call the position of the Caribbean and just last year the United Nations had a higher level meeting of all leaders in the world to discuss non-communicable diseases; this is how important this subject of wellness is,” he said.
Joseph further informed those in attendance that the Cabinet has established the concept of wellness in all ministries, in the form of a committee led by the Ministry of Health.
Senator Mary Claire Hurst also made special remarks on behalf of Tourism Minister Max Fernandez, providing statistics on the economic benefits of wellness.
She wooed the many persons present, saying, “Reliable estimates indicate that by 2021 the world-wide health tourism market will reach somewhere between US $46,000,000,000 and US $125 000,000,000 per year.”