Antigua and Barbuda Celebrate Success of 2016 New York Times Travel Show

Antigua and Barbuda has successfully started the year off at the 2016 New York Times Travel Show, the largest and longest-running trade and consumer travel show in North America with over 500 exhibitors and 28,000 travel professionals and consumers.

The travel show took place from January 8-10, at the Jacob K. Javits Center. The event kick off with a Trade Day open to travel professionals and media, with doors open to the public on Saturday and Sunday.

Antigua and Barbuda, recently named the Caribbean’s Most Romantic Destination, is dedicating 2016 to romance travel, also in line with the industry, as the Caribbean Tourism Organization has declared 2016 as the Year of Romance.

The New York Times Travel Show was the debut of the destination’s newest campaign, “Winter Love Awaits” identified by the hash tag #WinterLove365, promoting destination weddings.

The campaign features wedding packages with over 14 different options. To engage with all the visitors, each day featured the opportunity to win prizes such as tickets to Antigua on JetBlue or free stays with hotel partners.

Featuring the lowest airfares from the New York Tristate area to the Caribbean, with fares starting as low as $263 round-trip, attendees were shown why Antigua and Barbuda is a top destination to visit in 2016.

Beyond the New York Times Travel Show, The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority North America office has been aggressively promoting the destination targeting both digital and print ad campaigns with several notable publications to include, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Brides.com and Budget Travel that is exponentially increasing the visibility of the twin islands and is set to result in a landmark tourism year for 2016.

Antigua and Barbuda will be an exhibitor at the Boston Globe Show next month, also one of the largest trade and consumer shows in the northeast market.

Antiguan Appointed to Head Regional Immigration Grouping

An Antiguan has been newly appointed as the Regional Liaison Officer for Border Security at the CARICOM Level.

Speaking on the Appointment, Ms. Joycelyn Hughes from the Immigration Department explained how she was chosen for the position.

Hughes disclosed that she will be in charge of various CARICOM projects that relate to border security within the region, and gave brief background on her experience.

Ms. Joycelyn Hughes who previously served in the capacity of Deputy Chief Immigration Officer will assume the post on Monday.  

Health Professionals Discuss Mental Health Care in Antigua

Following the incident on New Year’s Day which left 15 year old Shaveesa Gasper nursing 2nd and 3rd Degree Burns, Health Professionals discussed a growing concern about mental health in Antigua and Barbuda.

Neighbors of the family have been saying that the mother had shown signs of being mentally unstable after reports indicated that the mother of the teen set her alight after having doused her with Gasoline.

Weighing in on the matter, Psychiatrist Dr. Griffin Benjamin indicated that he would not be surprised if Gasper’s mother was suffering from an undiagnosed mental health issue.

He stated that even when these conditions are diagnosed; there is no proper access to care and treatment for these individuals in Antigua which needs to be improved upon.

Also assessing the issue, PAHO Representative for the Eastern Caribbean and Barbados Godfrey Xuereb stated that in many situations of this nature, it is always unfortunate when poor mental health is an issue.

The PAHO Representative indicated that the organization has been working along with health professionals throughout the region to ensure that they can identify mental disorders in patients.

Xuereb stated that structures need to be put in place to ensure that mental health is dealt with properly, not only in Antigua and Barbuda, but among the wider Caribbean.

Last week, Shaveesa Gasper was airlifted from the Mount St. John’s Medical Centre to Martinique to undergo treatment at the burn centre there. Officials disclosed that her injuries were too severe, so the teen was then moved to Paris France where she will undergo reconstructive plastic surgery.

E-Visa

E-Visa System to Launch on Friday

On Friday, The Ministry of Immigration will launch its E-Visa system which will revolutionize the country’s application process.

Chief Immigration Officer, Annette Mark told ZDK News that the launch of the E-Visa system will be beneficial to the twin island state and allow persons who need a visa to visit the country to apply online.

Mark indicated that officials will continue to make note of the various adjustments that need to be made to improve user experience.

The Immigration official said that due diligence will still be maintained in the online process. She also noted that the new system will make the entire application process run with considerable ease.

WIOC Tank Expansion

In a matter of hours, the Government will proceed to break ground in its multi-million dollar expansion of the Tank Farm at the West Indies Oil Company.

Last year, after the Gaston Browne Administration succeeded in becoming the owners of the Oil Company, the Nation’s Leader announced his intentions of the company becoming a major petroleum distributor to the region.

A $15 million dollar overage is being utilized to construct the tanks, monies which were secured through the sale of a 25% stake in WIOC to the Venezuelan Government.

It was disclosed that the additional storage will be used for bunkering of petroleum products that will be sold to other islands in the Northern Leeward Islands, in an effort to realize the Prime Ministers goal for the company.

According to the Chief of Staff, the expansion will ensure that profits will exceed $10 million dollars annually, and that Antigua and Barbuda’s share of the dividends will be at least $5 million dollars annually.

Through the expansion project, a number of persons will also be able to find employment.

As a part of the entire expansion process, the pipes used to transport the oil to tankers will also be assessed to see what upgrades and repairs are necessary.

Burnt Teen flown out to France

Shaveesa Gasper, the 15 yr old teenager who was allegedly set on fire by her mother on New Year’s Day, has been airlifted from Martinique to France for further medical treatment.

This information was disclosed by Government Officials, who indicated that due to the severity of her injuries, the teen will have to under plastic surgery.

Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne, upon hearing of the incident, immediately mobilized his Ministers of Health and Social Transformation to utilize the government’s resources to offer assistance to the teenager who sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns to over 60 percent of her body.

Head of the Teen Explosion Committee Vinema Jarvis told ZDK News earlier this week that a trust fund is being set up to ensure transparency surrounding receipt of funding for the teen.

Shaveesa Gasper was the winner of the 2015 Teen Explosion Competition and also won the award Best Actress at the National Secondary School’s Drama Festival.

ABIIT praised for launching Anti-Money Laundering Certification

Lieutenant Col Edward Croft, Director of the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP), has applauded the introduction of Anti-Money Laundering certification at ABIIT and stated that it is crucial for individuals to be certified in these fields.

The Director indicated that Antigua and Barbuda is underserviced with certified individuals in these key areas, and as the island is due to be re-evaluated by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) having qualified personnel will ensure that the nation receives better ratings.

In 2015, The FATF commended the twin island state for making significant progress in addressing Money Laundering but warned that deficiencies in relation to legislation designed to prevent money laundering remain.

Education Minister Michael Browne also welcomed the program describing it as a monumental achievement and assured stakeholders of the Government’s commitment to its success.

The Antigua and Barbuda International Institute of Technology (ABIIT), through the Ministry of Education signed on as the official University Partner with the MLFC Institute in Florida.

Under the agreement ABIIT will offer certificate programs in the field of Anti-Money Laundering (AML), Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) and Financial Crimes (FC).

ABIIT says that the online course will also be available in locally and regionally to the other OECS Countries.

The Course starts on January 21st and runs until the 12th of May at a cost of $1000USD for prospective students.

The partnership between the two institutions seeks to provide an avenue for nationals and professionals within the region to certify themselves in the field to fill positions locally, regionally, and internationally.

The partnership was announced on Monday morning and the new education certification was launched at the ABIIT campus.

The program will prepare students to enter a labour market segment which has suffered from a shortage of qualified candidates and will benefit the local economy as well as contribute to local growth.

Amnesty Deadline Extended

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has extended the Amnesty period granted to non-nationals under the Immigration and Passport Act 2014 as amended.

It was disclosed that the new deadline of the Amnesty is 29th February, 2016.

According to Immigration officials, the extension is to allow the Department of Immigration to conclude the processing of applications received in 2015 and to further to extend to all non-nationals residing in Antigua and Barbuda illegally, the opportunity to regularize their status.

Affected Individuals are requested to apply to the Department of Immigration for regularization of their status on or before the 29th February, 2016.

The Immigration Department has indicated that it will enforce the provisions of the law by penalizing persons illegally residing in Antigua and Barbuda after the end of the Amnesty period.  This may include the Immigration Department applying for a Removal Order from the State.

Analysts Weigh in on Weston’s Comments

One of Antigua and Barbuda’s National Heroes has spoken in support of Senator Lennox Weston following remarks made pledging to clamp down on Syrian Dominance in Antigua and Barbuda.

The comments were made when Weston raised the matter of changing the tendering process to stop “the domination of Syrians” in the country which received backlash from members of the Syrian Community.

Regional Analyst Dr. David Hinds also voiced his support for the senator’s comments. He agreed with the focal point of Senator Weston and joined him in advocating for black empowerment.

Sir Viv said that he stands behind Senator Weston and hopes that he not only talks the talk, but actively pushes for black empowerment.

Hinds went on to say that issues like these must be publicly discussed as they have been ignored for too long which has caused the build up of these inequalities.