It should be noted is that my first impression of the country of Antigua and Barbuda, and of the more populous island Antigua in particular in this federation, was formed even before I arrived on the island. When I was checking in for the flight from New York to St. John’s, the capital of the country, I found much to my surprise that the country of Antigua required someone checking in online to tell them when you were going to leave. They were quite alright with tourists visiting without burdensome visa requirements, but wanted to know that they were going to leave. I’m not exactly sure why this is a problem but it is certainly something I noticed and thought to be very interesting. The other thing I noticed before arriving is that the island is not pronounced the way I was pronouncing it. I had referred to the island in talking with others as An-tee-gwuh, and apparently it is instead pronounced An-tee-guh. I will make a note of that in the future.
Anyway, while it was a bit puzzling that the country had provided our flight with no immigration forms before our arrival, we were all able to fill out the forms rapidly and get through the airport thanks to the help of some friendly staff. St. John’s has a relatively new airport–I was told by one of the airport employees that it was about four years old or so–and it certainly looks good and provides an enjoyable experience for the traveler who arrives in the island. Our flight was full of newlyweds going on their honeymoons as well as locals returning home for the tourist season, which apparently starts in a couple of weeks or so. And at least judging from what I saw, the island definitely makes a lot of concessions to attempt to appeal to tourists in various fashions, which I will describe more below, although it does not adapt the method of encouraging discreet banking like St. Lucia did or try to scare off tourists with a discussion of its deadly animals like Suriname did.
As far as the looks of the island, Antigua is a pleasant and beautiful island. It was verdant flying in, and having been driven from St. John’s to English Harbour, where we are staying, the island is no less beautiful after having been on it. It has the usual mix of some things that are done well–there is a relatively new cricket stadium that was built for the Cricket World Cup recently, and at least according to our taxi driver the island is apparently very much fond of Cricket, as it was a subject we talked about at some length. The houses on the island are attractive even if the roads are a bit more narrow than Americans would be used to. Street signs are extremely limited, making it tough for people to navigate the roads without being familiar with the area, and there is a real shortage of stop lights and parking spaces, which leads people to park wherever there is any room, including in the lanes of the island’s barely two-lane highways and byways.
The attempts of the island’s government to appeal to tourists comes through in various ways. St. John’s apparently has some strict parking regulations to help encourage tourists to see the island as well-run and in fine form, and the new stadium and airport give off an air of being up-to-date, but the state of the roads and the fact that the island apparently needs some updated prison facilities suggests that certain infrastructure needs are prioritized over others in an atmosphere of considerable scarcity, not least when one considers that recent hurricanes destroyed the island nation’s secondary island, Barbuda, whose citizens apparently want to return there even if almost everything has to be imported from Antigua on account of Barbuda’s very limited industrial and commercial capabilities. It was also striking that as we were finishing dinner and about to return to our room that some trucks spraying some chemicals to keep the mosquito population down drove by and we had to make sure to stay in relatively fresh air until things cleared up. Apparently the island nation sprays the air around sunset every other day or so right now to keep mosquitoes away, so that tourists are not discouraged by them. This was one of the ways in which I noticed that the desire to present an appealing face to tourists can have consequences in terms of the quality of the air. One would not want to be out and about when the trucks are coming, that’s for sure.