Travel Agent chatted with Candis Niles, Anguilla’s new director of tourism, Friday morning and learned of the island’s aggressive effort to regain three American/American Eagle flights the destination lost recently when it was forced to cut flights due to a decreasing figures.
Niles, who officially took over on July 26, told us that the destination is looking to go back to having American/American Eagle flights seven days a week.
“We all have been suffering from the effects of the global economic downturn, but we also having some issues on just the Anguilla front that are unique to us as a destination,” Niles says. “And one of those issues is access into Anguilla.”
Once additional flights are added, however, the destination still needs to improves how travelers clear customs. As its stands now, travelers need to fly to St. Maarten and then clear customs from the ferry to Anguilla as opposed to clearing customs immediately after landing, which would save a lot of time.
“We are looking into an initiative with Dutch authorities that has not yet been finalized yet, but we are looking into the possibility of having immigration clear travelers as soon as someone lands in St. Maarten,” she told us.
Also on Niles’ wish list is expanding markets and broadening some niche markets. Latin America is one market Niles says the destination is strongly pursuing.
“One possible market is the Latin American market because they travel between the summer months,” she says. “Because of the proximity to St. Maarten, lot of charters are ready to do business with St. Maarten.”
Niles also plans to expand the U.S. market as well. Although the U.S., mainly the Northeast, makes up Anguilla's strongest clientele, she said it can still be expanded upon by attracting budget-conscious travelers, something Anguilla has rarely done before.
“There has always been that perception that Anguilla is only for the elite traveler and we want to get it out there that Anguilla is affordable,” says Niles. “But the critical thing is that the quality of service is always the same no matter what. Whether it’s a big hotel or a smaller one, you will find the same quality of service everywhere here.”
And since the destination still remains mostly a high-priced getaway, Niles says the island relies heavily on travel agents since travelers don’t like to spend too much money online.
“The travel agent remains a critical partner for us,” she says. “We need to continue to work together with agents and offer consulting programs to make sure they continue to sell Anguilla.”
Niles, who assumed her position with effect from July 26, is a former employee of the Anguilla Tourist Board, where she held the position of deputy director of tourism from 1995-2004.