Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What to do in Antigua?

I see the above question on various forums and message boards every day and often laugh at the replies. There are so many things to do here on Antigua while on holiday that it's impossible to give a proper answer to the general question. Usually taxi tours are pushed and or boat tours like mine are pushed, but many times people reply with more unusual suggestions. If the question about "things to do in Antigua" is asked on a message board it can usually be answered honestly by people giving various options. I say usually because there are some business owners on these message boards posing as happy customers praising their own tours. There are one or two taxi tours at the moment doing that fairly aggressively, but this isn't anything new at all. In general if you do the research on the net you are more likely to get a good perspective of the different things on offer. This changes dramatically when you get to Antigua though for several reasons.
I guess the first thing to consider is who you come to Antigua with and as important is where you stay. Many people coming from the UK and Europe to Antigua come with pre booked tour operators like Virgin Holidays, Thomas Cook, BA Holidays, Kuoni or some other. If this is the case then when you get to Antigua you will be met by your company's Hotel Rep. Now things get interesting. I don't think it’s wise for me to name companies specifically but I will point out that almost all tour handling and rep companies have strategic alliances and often ownership in the excursion companies. Can you imagine how difficult this makes it for an excursion to be offered to you if your rep is working for a company that co owns another excursion? Many times it is simply impossible and a great number of excursions are not offered at all to guests arriving in Antigua. This is another reason to book before you come. All of the small excursion companies know this all too well. We constantly take guests who were told by their reps that "they are fully booked", "they are no longer in operation", "their boat isn't working", "they don’t have insurance", "you are not covered by our company if you go with them"... the list goes on. This isn't a made up story at all and has been going on since I began working in this industry. I hear it from my friends who have run similar small operations too.
Then there are other situations where a visiting guest may not get the best reply about what to do on their holiday. There are many hotels that do not carry certain tours. Some hotels demand so much commission that it is impossible for some of the excursion companies to afford to be in there. 20% is the most common commission for being the middle man, but some hotels require 30%. I guess this is just business and like Donald Trump keeps on saying "its nothing personal..... Its just business", but the little guys and the visitors are the ones who suffer with this sort of practice.
Another situation that can sometimes prevent a visitor from coming into contact with an excursion is when a hotel tour desk is actually rented out to another excursion company. This is very common and as you can imagine can be hard on some excursions that just don’t fit in with a particular tour desk. There are several other situations too other than the main ones above, but I guess I am just trying to give readers a little more info on the big picture. If you see an excursion that you like while you are surfing the net email them and book it. This way you usually get a discount, you get what you want, and you get the day you want. We often turn people away when they wait until the last day to book a tour. At the very least keep the number so that you can call direct to make your booking when you are in Antigua.
My company Adventure Antigua would not exist today if we had not spent so much energy in web development during the early days. If you read the history of our company you will hear how hard it was to be sold by reps and hotels. It is now way easier but there are still many areas where we are not sold.
Actually when Sandals took over Pineapple Beach Hotel a.k.a. Grand Pineapple we tried to work with them but eventually had to pull out. It just didn't make business sense at that time, so now we are not sold there at all. When the hotel closes down to become Beaches or whatever Sandals decides to do with it I will try again to see if we can work something out. For now if you are going to stay at Sandal's Pineapple in Antigua and want to come out with us, you better pre book or keep our number. Remember there is a new tour that picks up just around the corner from the Pineapple Grand at Veranda Hotel.

Anyway, whatever happens I hope you get what you want out of your holiday in Antigua and that the typical sunshine and warmth make you smile for a long time after you leave Antigua. The above info should help you to book or at least bookmark the excursions you want before you get down here. Email us info @ adventureantigua.com or comment here if you have any questions or comments.