Tourism in ANTIGUA and BARBUDA - History

Tourism in ANTIGUA and BARBUDA - History

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Tourism is the main industry in Antigua. Stayover arrivals (247,320) supported by a buoyant cruise (801,787) and yachting (19,543) industry allowed total visitor arrivals to reach 1,068,650.


The Ministry of Tourism is charged with making policy and establishing policy guidelines within the tourism industry in Antigua and Barbuda. We hold responsibility for the overall marketing & promotion of the destination, in addition to the development of the tourism product on the island.

Antigua and Barbuda to become the premier island destination by, delivering distinctive and diverse tourism experiences which will continuously enrich the lives of residents and visitors.

  • Optimize The Economic and Social Benefits
  • Establish Antigua & Barbuda as a Top Caribbean Destination
  • Ensure a Sustainable Environment

The Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority is a statutory body dedicated to realizing the tourism potential of Antigua & Barbuda by promoting the twin island state as a unique, quality tourist destination with the overall objective of increasing visitor arrivals thereby providing sustainable economic growth.

The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority has three offices overseas in the following markets:

Pre-colonial History

Antigua has received much attention from archaeologists since the mid twentieth century, so its pre-colonial history is well known relative to many other Caribbean islands. The earliest occupation at the ‘Little Deep Site’ dates to 3106 BCE, but this is only one of about forty sites that show evidence of the island’s colonizers. It is likely that migrants were attracted to Antigua because of its extensive deposits of chert, a stone well suited to the production of flaked tools. An interesting feature of early settlements is that they yielded chert implements resembling those of the Casmiroid tradition. The site of Jolly Beach (c. 1865−1685 B.C.), for example, appears to have been a lithic workshop on a small spit of land off Antigua’s northern coast. These discoveries have linked Antigua’s origins tentatively to the pre-contact cultures of Belize, and thus Antigua might share with some of the Greater Antillean islands a Central American heritage, in addition to a South America one.

The first populations settled mostly on the northern coast of Antigua proper, taking advantage of the rich marine resources, easily attested by the thick mollusc middens in coastal settlements. These groups did not make or use ceramics, and it is not until much later that the rather striking-looking Saladoid ceramic styles appear in the archaeological record.

Saladoid migrations from South America ushered in a second pre-colonial phase of occupation in Antigua, and indeed for the entire Caribbean region. As on every island they colonized, they brought new cultural sophistications to Antigua, such as their distinctive white-on-red (WOR) pottery, zone-incised-crosshatched wares (ZIC), zemi worship and artifacts such three-pointer zemis, and elaborate village construction, complete with public central places such as ball plazas. One such settlement is Indian Creek, discovered in 1956, and dated toward the end of the Saladoid occupation (A.D. 1 to A.D. 600). A central plaza surrounded by a ring of middens has been excavated at this site.

Antigua also bears two additional post-Saladoid phases of pre-colonial occupation, beginning with the Mill Reef culture (A.D. 600–900), which is characterized by the Troumassoid artifact complex as seen on other islands such as Barbados. The second post-Saladoid phase is locally named the Mamora Bay culture, dating from A.D. 900–1100. Both of these phases saw a shift from inland settlement toward a more coastal orientation, accompanied by an economic and subsistence change from agriculture to fishing.

Historic Era

Columbus arrived in Antigua in 1493, marking the beginning of the historic era however, there is no indication from early written sources that Europeans had contact with indigenous peoples. It was not until 1632 after failed attempts by the French and Spanish, that the British colonized the island.

Two sites stand out as significant during historical times: Betty’s Hope Estate and Nelson’s Dockyard. Established during the mid-seventeenth century, Betty’s Hope Estate has recently attracted the attention of historical archaeologists interested in defining the birth of Afro-Caribbean culture through the height of the sugar industry’s dominance (1674 and later). Once one of the most productive plantations in the region, Betty’s Hope has taken on a second life as an open air heritage tourist attraction, thanks to careful restoration work, which has completely reinstated a windmill to full working order.

Nelson’s Dockyard and English Harbour were of immense strategic and military importance during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and have been the subject of study of naval historians and archaeologists alike. The site is well regarded for the importance of persons who were stationed or visited it in history, such as Lord Nelson, William Henry (later King William IV), Admiral Hood, etc. Less well-known is the fact that indigenous peoples recognized the excellence of the harbour long before the historic era, as attested by the discoveries of pre-colonial remains at the site. Today, like Betty’s Hope Estate, the harbour is enjoying new life as a heritage attraction, made possible by restoration works taking place since the 1930s, on both the Georgian architecture and the harbour’s military relics and fittings.

Tourism in Antigua and Barbuda

All the signs pointed towards Antigua. The island had warm, steady winds, a complex coastline of safe harbors, and a protective, nearly unbroken wall of coral reef. It would make a perfect place to hide a fleet. And so in 1784 the legendary Admiral Horatio Nelson sailed to Antigua and established Great Britain's most important Caribbean base. Little did he know that over 200 years later the same unique characteristics that attracted the Royal Navy would transform Antigua and Barbuda into one of the Caribbean's premier tourist destinations.
The signs are still there, they just point to different things. The Trade Winds that once blew British men-of-war safely into English Harbour now fuel one of the world's foremost maritime events, Sailing Week. The expansive, winding coastline that made Antigua difficult for outsiders to navigate is where today's trekkers encounter a tremendous wealth of secluded, powdery soft beaches. The coral reefs, once the bane of marauding enemy ships, now attract snorkelers and scuba divers from all over the world. And the fascinating little island of Barbuda -- once a scavenger's paradise because so many ships wrecked on its reefs -- is now home to one of the region's most significant bird sanctuaries.

Copyright © 2015 National Library of Antigua and Barbuda Market Street St. John's Antigua & Barbuda West Indies

Antigua and Barbuda Sets a New Tourism Record

The Verandah in Antigua.

For several years, Antigua and Barbuda has been among the Caribbean&rsquos hottest destinations, with a thriving hotel pipeline, surging arrivals and even a brand-new, world-class-airport.

And this week it just broke a record.

Antigua and Barbuda received its 300,000th visitor for the year on Dec. 31, reaching the milestone for the first time in the country&rsquos history &mdash a significant achievement that cements just how far the twin-island destination has come since it kicked-off its tourism strategy in earnest half a decade ago.

The exciting new Hammock Cove resort in Antigua, which opened last month.

Laura and Ian Bowen, who arrived on a Virgin Atlantic flight from the United Kingdom, were the 300,000 th and the 300,001 visitors. When they arrived at VC Bird International Airport they were welcomed by tourism team member and cultural performers.

&ldquoWe have seen incredible year over year growth every month this year so far&rdquo, said Antigua and Barbuda&rsquos Minister of Tourism, Charles Fernandez. &ldquoAlmost every key market is seeing incredible growth &ndash in particular the US, Caribbean, and the UK where our lovely couple hails from. These markets have all contributed to the double digit increase in stay-over air arrivals that we are celebrating this year.&rdquo

Antigua and Barbuda&rsquos sizzling, record-breaking growth in 2019 led to the award for Caribbean Destination of the Year in the recent 2020 Caribbean Travel Awards.

&ldquoAt the end of November we had already exceeded our total arrivals reached in 2018. This represents a +14.9% increase year to date, and we were then only 25,000 shy of reaching the 300,000 visitor arrival milestone,&rdquo Fernandez said.

And it seems like the growth is just the beginning, with a growing number of new hotels on the horizon, from popular brands like Best Western to luxury marques like Rosewood and Waldorf-Astoria, among others.

The record-breaking couple is staying this week at the Sandals Grande Resort in Antigua.

&ldquoOn behalf of our Chairman and Founder, Gordon &lsquoButch&rsquo Stewart, we remain committed to the continued promotion of Antigua as an ideal vacation destination and are happy to note that the island&rsquos 300,000 th stop-over visitor is among our valued returning guests,&rdquo Sandals Resorts International said in a statement. &ldquoIt is our pleasure to join with the local tourism authority to mark this incredible milestone and we look forward to greater achievements together, as we work to create new milestones for the destination.&rdquo

Antigua and Barbuda’s Tourism Vaccination Push

Long Bay in Antigua.

Antigua and Barbuda has undertaken a strong vaccination push in the tourism sector, with more than 60 percent of all tourism employees in the country now vaccinated.

Second dose vaccinations are now underway for more than 3,500 employees in the tourism sector in Antigua and Barbuda, with many other employees now also getting their first dose of the vaccine.

&ldquoVaccination is still the only proven scientifically known way for us to get out of the clutches of this pandemic,&rdquo said Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Minister Charles &ldquoMax&rdquo Fernandez. &ldquoSaving lives and livelihoods and allowing us to fully open our country for tourism. We are encouraged by the steadily increasing vaccination rate in the sector and will continue to support our industry partners however we can, to ensure employees are safe and the sector continues to see increased growth and a return to full employment.&rdquo

The push is leading the industry to see a &ldquorecovery in sight, with airlift and occupancy showing slow signs of increase.&rdquo

The country has also been buoyed by its recent CDC designation as a Level 1 destination &mdash meaning it&rsquos considered one of the safest destinations in the world.

&ldquoWe must be serious and think aggressively about promoting our destination as Sun, Sea and Safe,&rdquo said Vernon Jeffers, Executive Chairman of the ABHTA. &ldquoSafety means ensuring that we protect our employees and encourage them to get vaccinated, protecting themselves and their families. Our team members must also feel safe in a work environment where they can deliver the best service to guests. Our success is simply vaccination, where each one, protects the other.&rdquo

Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Boom Continues

Antigua might be a small island, at 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, but its tourism industry is bigger than ever.

Tourism to the West Indies island welcomed a record-breaking 27,301 visitors in April, a 17% increase from the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Investment.

Last year was a record year for tourism, and this year is shaping up to be the same. Year-to-date, tourism to Antigua and its sister island Barbuda is up 8.59% with 117,920 visitors.

The growth has been fueled by new luxury products, including the 294-suite Royalton Antigua Resort & Spa, which opened in May and Hodges Bay Resort & Spa, which debuted in December, the island's first new-build in more than three years. Rosewood and Waldorf Astoria are also both slated to open resorts on the island.

&ldquoAntigua and Barbuda has always been strongly in demand by the high end part of the market. A lot of our top hotels are four- to five-stars, that part of the business is going well,&rdquo Colin James, CEO of Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, told Travel Market Report.

&ldquoBut all in all, we have been trying to diversify the product, so we are not only high-end exclusive, but we also have the properties that are catering to the entire family in the three- to four-star range.&rdquo

Families will also soon have the option of visiting Antigua through a new seaport infrastructure. The twin-island destination of Antigua and Barbuda recently inked a deal to increase deployment and development.

Antigua&rsquos government signed a memorandum of agreement with global cruise giant Global Port Holdings (GPH) to expand the St. John&rsquos Port facilities, allowing it to handle Royal Caribbean&rsquos Oasis-class ships, as well as modernize it and add new shops, Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez said. GPH will also be investing in a water park.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) is also partnering on the project. The agreement will include a strategy to double annual passenger arrivals to 500,000 visitors within five years, beginning with the construction of a fifth berth at Antigua&rsquos Heritage and Redcliffe Quay cruise pier and terminal in St. John&rsquos. It also includes a strategy to bring 30,000 passengers to Antigua during the traditionally slow summer months, in addition to the regular winter schedule.

&ldquoThe fact that Royal Caribbean, one of the largest cruise lines, is partnering on this guarantees their support in terms of bringing passengers to the island,&rdquo Minister Fernandez said, adding the cruise line has been on the island to look into building &ldquosome kind of leisure site for the cruise passengers,&rdquo similar to that of its new Perfect Day at Coco Cay in the Bahamas.

&ldquoThat is important for us because our aim is to double cruise passenger arrivals from the now 750,000 to 1.5 million in five years,&rdquo Minister Fernandez told Travel Market Report. &ldquoThe advantage of the cruise industry is that, although it is similar to an all-inclusive, the passenger at least gets a day on land, supporting taxi operators and local vendors.

Additional airlift has been put in place to support these new developments. A second Delta flight coming out of New York&rsquos John F. Kennedy International Airport will be added, joining direct flights from Miami, Charlotte, and Atlanta.

&ldquoThe destination is well served out of North America,&rdquo James said. &ldquoWe&rsquore looking to expand, but for right now, it has contributed to the strong growth we&rsquore seeing.&rdquo

These new flights are accompanied by a new international airport, which was voted the Caribbean&rsquos best airport by travelers in 2018, and &ldquohas been a catalyst, as well, for attracting new airline service.&rdquo

James also highlighted the country&rsquos summer marketing campaign, &ldquoWhat Cool Looks Like,&rdquo which aims make the destination more of a year-round place to visit.

&ldquoTraditionally, there&rsquos a feeling throughout the market that the Caribbean is closed throughout the summer, and we are trying to change that narrative,&rdquo he said. &ldquoIt&rsquos actually cooler in Antigua and Barbuda in June and the summer months than it is in a lot of the source markets in the States and Europe.&rdquo

So far, the campaign has been successful. James said forward bookings are strong, particularly in September and October. &ldquoThe awareness we&rsquore raising has really moved the needle with shoulder seasons, the traditional slow season, when we really need that business.&rdquo

Initiative banning plastics
Antigua is known for its 365 beautiful beaches, one for every day of the year. Beyond that white sandy coast and into the turquoise blue water are miles of coral reef. Being home to such a fragile and important ecosystem, the government of Antigua and Barbuda decided to tackle plastic pollution head on.

It became the first country in the region to ban the use of single-use plastics and Styrofoam products nationwide. To celebrate, there was a joint concert earlier this month, with the United Nations and Norway celebrating the feat.

&ldquoI think the reason why we were so successful is that we managed to convince the general public of the importance of it, so we did a tremendous educational campaign,&rdquo Minister Fernandez said regarding the process to smoothly roll out the initiative.

&ldquoWe depend on the ocean for our survival, not just for tourism and livelihood, but for our very existence,&rdquo James added. &ldquoIt is incumbent on us to do what we have to do. And we are particularly pleased that a small nation of just over 100,000 people has raised the bar for the others to follow.&rdquo

The tourism authority sees this as a lead-in to other wellness-inspired endeavors. &ldquoThe modern traveler is living a healthier lifestyle and wants a healthier planet, and not just where they live, but where they vacation to,&rdquo James said. &ldquoOur country will be one of the first to be wellness-certified, so we can have a checklist to preserve and protect the environment.&rdquo

Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Statistics 1995-2021

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For the history of the festival you have to step back in time to 1 August 1834 when slavery was abolished. People immediately celebrated by taking to the streets to celebrate their freedom and express their joy and happiness. Over the years there was a return to this informal celebration until 1957 when the Old Time Christmas Festival, a festival of much culturally significance, was replaced in 1957 by Antigua's Carnival. The Antiguan Christmas Festival included several elements that have been adopted into the modern Carnival.

Christmas Festival traditions include both music and dance, especially related to masquerades and iron bands. The highland fling is a common Christmas Festival dance, also played in the modern Carnival, performed by people wearing Scottish kilts, masks made of wire and bearing whips of cowhide. Dancers wearing banana leaves and animal horns took part in the John Bull, while carolers paraded with long poles covered in lanterns, called carol trees, singing with accompaniment by the concertina. Stilt dancers in robes, called the Moko Jumbie, Jumpa-Ben or Long Ghosts, were also common, and were accompanied by kettle and bass drums, fife, triangle (cling-a-ching) and the boompipe, made from a plumbing joint one meter long.

There are several different musical forms featured during Carnival. Calypso, the oldest, has its roots in slavery a common explanation of its origins is that it began as a way for slaves, who were forbidden to speak in the fields, to communicate with each other. It is a polyglot, improvisational form that depends largely upon the skill of a soloist, (the calypsonian) who weaves the sounds of many cultures into a lyrical whole. Calypso competitions have long been a highlight of Carnival.

Steel drum music was created when the bamboo percussion instruments traditionally used to back up calypso were replaced by hammered steel pans cut from oil drums. Whereas there is no dispute that the steel pan was developed in Trinidad, the indigenous development of the steel band in Antigua and Barbuda was an outgrowth of the iron bands which were prominent at Christmas time. Steel drum music has been an important part of Carnival since that time, and Antigua is home to many of the Caribbean's finest steel bands. Soca is a musical form that grafts the slower beat of American soul music to the upbeat tempos of calypso. Soca began in the 1970s, and by the middle of the 1980s it had become an integral feature of Carnival.

Opening Parade and Ceremony Edit

Antigua's carnival officially kicks off with an opening parade through the city of St. John's. Bands and troupes come out in T-shirts bearing the insignia of their respective companies. Floats, which were big in the past, have begun to see a resurgence in their popularity. The participants of various competitions also make a strong appearance in the Opening parade.

The typical parade route is usually like the following: The Parade will begin at 3:00 pm from Parliament Drive, and turn unto Queen Elizabeth Highway. From there it will turn right onto Independence Drive, left onto Redcliffe Street continue on until it turns onto Thames Street. From there it will move up High Street, back onto Independence Drive, around the round-about by government house and then finally into Carnival City through the north gate.

The parade concludes at "Carnival City" (the official title given to the Antigua Recreation Ground during the carnival season). There the opening ceremony follows and the contestants for the various carnival competitions make a final public appearance before their shows. The opening ceremony usually finishes with fireworks.

Children's Carnival Edit

The Children's Carnival parade is set aside so that the children may really enjoy the carnival festivities to the fullest. They march through the streets as well and finish the parade at Carnival City.

The children come out in their costumes and portray different themes, taken from fairy tales etc. Cheerleading has also permeated into Antigua's carnival. At Carnival City the children enter the Prince and Princess competitions. Here each mas troupe enters a boy and girl who wear a costume in the hopes of winning the prince and princess competition. They are having their own fun.

J'ouvert Edit

Like j'ouvert all over the world, Antigua's is characterized by much revelry. Patrons wake up early at around 3 or 4 am and go into St. John's where they find their favorite bands and "jam" with them along the route. There is much drinking, more jamming, painting of the bodies with blue and brown paint, and people who wear colourful costumes.

Carnival Monday and Tuesday Edit

Antigua's carnival festivities conclude on the first Monday and Tuesday in August, dubbed Carnival Monday and Tuesday, official holidays. After J'ouvert Morning on Monday morning revelers come back into St. Johns in the afternoon to march through St. John's.

The troupes, bands and floats all return the very next afternoon to do it again but on a different route. This is dubbed Carnival Tuesday. The parade culminates at Carnival City where the different troupes are awarded prizes and the Road March king is decided upon.

List of Antiguan Mas' Troupes and Groups:

  • Vitus
  • Dynamics
  • Revellers
  • Myst
  • Showcase
  • Exotic
  • Passion
  • Solid Mas
  • Wadadli Madness
  • Ali and Associates
  • Extreme Mas
  • Fantasy 268
  • Ali and Associates
  • Insane

Teen Splash Edit

Teen Splash formerly the Teenage Pageant is a highly anticipated show on the carnival calendar. It pits youth of both sexes from different secondary schools around Antigua against each other. In the past there was a Mister and Miss Teen Splash but at present there is only one winner. The teens come up against each other in four segments:

  • Personality and Aspiration
  • Performing Talent
  • Research
  • Question and Answer

Queen of Carnival Edit

The Queen of Carnival show is the most prestigious and coveted pageant title in Antigua and Barbuda. Beautiful young ladies from all over the island take part in the competition that has propelled many into the public eye. Many doors can be opened for the winner of such a "Queen Show". The young ladies compete in the following rounds to prove that they are superior to the other delegates:

  • Talent segment
  • Evening Wear
  • Carnival Costume
  • Swimwear
  • Interview segment

Jaycees Caribbean Queen Show Edit

Organized by the Junior Chamber of Antigua and Barbuda, the Jaycees Caribbean Queen show has been existing since the 70s. The show sees competitors from across the Caribbean region compete for the coveted Jaycess crown. Territories such as, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, St. Croix, and Trinidad and Tobago enter every year.

Antigua's representative is always the winner of the Antigua Queen of Carnival Competition just days before.

Notable former Jaycees Queens have been Kai Davis, Jermilla Kirwan, Shelana George, Shermain Jeremy (all four of Antigua) and Princess Best (of Barbados).

Junior Calypso Edit

The Junior Calypso competition seeks to keep the Calypso art form alive in the nation's children. The competition is divided into two segments, the 5 to 12 category and the 13 to 19 category. Each child sings one calypso and is judged on criteria that include performance, lyrics, clarity, content and use of stage.

Many of the Junior Calypso winners have gone on to compete in the Calypso Monarch Competition.

  • Lyrics Man
  • Thalia King
  • Lady Challenger
  • Young Destroyer
  • A'Shante (A'Shante O'Keiffe)

Party Monarch Edit

The most well attended show for the Carnival season, Party Monarch, attracted over 11 thousand patrons in 2007 and approximately nine thousand in 2008. The competition is divided into two segments the Groovy and the Up-tempo. Ten competitors per segment compete for the title of Party Monarch. The Party Monarch sees many people of all ages come to listen to the local talent. The competitors sing Soca songs.

The Party Monarch competitions are also the fastest growing competitions and the artist are really developing. Some pundits are also expressing the view that Antigua's Soca is swiftly surpassing that of Trinidad.

The most notable winners of the Party Monarch competition are:

    (winning four times)
  • Mervyn "Sleepy" Edwards (three times)
  • Toriano "Onyan" Edwards of the Burning Flames

Steel Pan and Steel Orchestras are a big deal in Antigua with several pan yards around the island. These Pan players come into groups of about one hundred (some more, some less) and perform at Antigua's official Steel Pan competition, Panorama.

Some of the Steel Bands that perform are:

  • Gemonites
  • Harmonites
  • Ebonites
  • Hell's Gate
  • Halcyon
  • East Vybes

Visit the Carnival website for the history of the Steel Orchestras:

Jam bands, as they are called, are a significant part of the Carnival festivities. They lead the crowd during parades and they provide the music with which to dance. Several bands in Antigua have risen to much acclaim regionally and internationally.

These bands play mostly Soca music during the carnival season and attract hundreds of patrons who follow behind them to Carnival City.

During the Carnival season in Antigua there are many events that take place that are not planned by the official carnival organizing body (Carnival Development Committee). These, while not official, are a very important part of the carnival season for patrons.

Pre carnival events such Blue Jeans, White Fete and Red Eye are very popular parties that usually take place over the weekends of July leading up to carnival.

"Lions Den" hosted by the Lions Club Antigua is the quintessential carnival "jam". It is executed in the form of a big rave and draws crowds of thousands. Two of Antigua's biggest bands, the Burning Flames and the Red Hot Flames perform.

1. Antigua and Barbuda got its name from Spanish terms.

Antigua, which in Spanish translates to “ancient,” was given by Christopher Columbus. The moniker draws inspiration from the Santa Maria La Antigua, which can be seen in the Seville Cathedral. The name Barbuda, on the other hand, means “bearded.” Why it was named so remains a mystery, an interesting fact about Antigua and Barbuda. Historians suggest that it may be derived from the male natives in the island, while some believe that the name must have been inspired by the many bearded fig trees that can be seen on Barbuda

2. Christopher Columbus was the first European to spot the island.

In 1493, the explorer Columbus set his sights on the sovereign state – but that’s all he did, an interesting Antigua and Barbuda fact. The Spanish, who are usually on a conquering mood, ignored the islands because of the lack of fresh water. It was not until 1632 when the island of Antigua was finally occupied by the English. The same fate befell Barbuda, which was settled by Christopher Codrington in 1685.

Antigua and Barbuda eventually became part of the Leeward Islands colony, before it was incorporated in the West Indies Federation. The nation remained under British rule until its independence on November 1, 1981.

3. Antigua and Barbuda became a hotbed for slavery.

When the English set foot on the islands, they brought their West African slaves with them to grow their exports of Tobacco and sugar. The slaves, like those from the other parts of the globe, suffered from harsh conditions. The mistreatment led to revolts in 1701, 1729, and 1736. Unfortunately, info regarding the revolt of 1736 was leaked, and this led to the execution of Prince Klaas, the mastermind of the said rebellion.

It was not until less than 100 years later when Klaas’ descendants finally tasted freedom. Slavery was finally abolished in the colony in 1834.

4. The citizens commemorate the country’s emancipation from slavery through the Antigua Carnival.

Whereas most countries memorialize freedom from slavery with somber remembrances, the Antiguans do so with a colorful carnival celebration. Celebrated from the end of July to early August, the Antigua Carnival is a 10-day festivity that features beauty pageants, talent shows, musical events – all done in vivid costumes, of course.

5. English is the country’s official language.

As a colony of Britain for several centuries, it comes as no surprise that the English language has become the country’s official language. It is not that extensively used though, as it is only required to be spoken during class hours in private schools, a fun fact about Antigua and Barbuda.

Residents usually speak Antiguan Creole, but usage usually depends on socio-economic class. The middle and upper-class people opt to speak English in public while the lower class individuals use the Antiguan Creole language almost exclusively.

6. The capital is located in St. John’s, Antigua.

St. John’s has been the administrative center of the country since it was first settled in 1631. Now, the largest Antiguan city is considered as one of the most modern areas in the Lesser Antilles. As the home of more than 22,000 residents, the city is known for its chic shops, big banks, and the Antigua Rum Distillery.

7. Antigua and Barbuda is a hotspot for tourism.

With its beautiful beaches and historic infrastructures, Antigua and Barbuda has become a reprieve for vacationers all around the world. According to the World Tourism Organization, as much as 269 million tourists visited the islands in 2018. Because of the continuous influx of visitors, tourism contributes to more than half of the nation’s gross domestic product.

The country’s top visited places include the Half Moon Bay, Stingray City, Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, Dickenson Bay, and St. John’s, to name a few.

8. The country is home to several offshore medical schools.

This type of institution is defined by the World Bank as “centers made for North American students who wish to practice medicine in the United States and Canada.” The mushrooming of said schools in the Carribean, specifically in Antigua and Barbuda, may be due to the relative ease of starting institutions in the area.

A total of three offshore medical schools operate in the country, a fun Antigua and Barbuda fact. They are the American University of Antigua, the Metropolitan University College of Medicine, and the University of Health Sciences – Antigua School of Medicine.

9. The Bird Family dominated much of the nation’s politics.

When Antigua and Barbuda broke free from British rule, Vere Bird became the nation’s first prime minister in 1981. He held the position until 1994, when he resigned due to health problems, apart from other political issues. That year, he was named a Knight of the Order of the National Hero.

Succeeding him was his son Lester Bryant Bird, a lawyer who reigned as the second prime minister of the country until 2004. While they were accused of cronyism and corruption, the father-and-son tandem did bring about political stability to this country, a fun Antigua and Barbuda fact.

10. As much as 95% of Barbuda was destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

Barbuda was one of the islands that were ravaged by Hurricane Irma last September 2017. It suffered a direct hit – destroying as much as 95% of the island. The economic toll was a whopping $136 million.

As much as 1,800 residents were subsequently transferred to the neighboring island of Antigua. Despite the typhoon’s ferociousness, the preparedness of Barbudans – who mostly took refuge in specialized shelters – resulted in a low death count of 3.

11. Same-sex activities are illegal in Antigua and Barbuda.

The nation is one of the few countries where same-sex acts punishable by as much as 15 years in prison. Such a ruling can be seen in the Sexual Offences Act of 1995. It has several clauses, including LGBT people are not allowed to serve in the military, gay couples are not allowed surrogacy, while lesbian couples are not given access to in-vitro fertilization.


Antigua and Barbuda is a beautiful country with pristine beaches and historic ports. With its mild weather and warm people, it has become one of the best nations to visit in the Caribbean.

I hope that this article on Antigua and Barbuda facts was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!


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