A visionary and expert strategist, Marie Walker has a successful track record of overseeing and directing high-impact marketing campaigns, public relations, and promotions of destination islands in the Caribbean region. A Caribbean national with over 30 years of destination tourism marketing experience, she is armed with an unparalleled passion for the tourism industry. Formerly with the Jamaica Tourist Board, Anguilla Tourist Board, and TurnStyle Marketing, Marie opened the first Anguilla National Tourist Office in North. Today she is Vice President of Marketing and Sales for the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What motivated your passion for a career in the travel industry? Specifically, in promoting the Caribbean?
Marie Walker (MW): I started very early in my career working in tourism. In fact, I have always been in the hospitality business. I began working in Jamaica at the Tourist Board and while there worked on weekends in a few hotels in various capacities. From the moment I started, I had a natural calling to the business. In sum, I simply adore working with people, caring for our travel community and working tirelessly to lift the profile of our Caribbean tourism product. Our business is one of selling pleasure and I feel my personality is a perfect fit! I love our people and what we represent and we largely understand the importance of tourism in the region and the associated benefits.
TRO: Tell us about your role at the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority.
MW: I have the responsibility of increasing the visibility, awareness, presence across all disciplines and platforms of our twin islands. Our visitor experiences, arrivals and spend are paramount in our deliverables. Our office has a responsibility, as the region with the largest visitors to do our utmost to build the business.
TRO: What separates Antigua and Barbuda from other Caribbean islands?
MW: This is always a tricky question to answer. As a Caribbean national who has traveled across the region, I continue to see so many similarities with our fellow nations. They are indeed common denominators. I always marvel while working or visiting one island after the other, how much our tourists’ comments remain somewhat similar with each destination. They love our people, our resorts, our beaches, our varied experiences and they continue to visit each island or repeat a few when they have found an island that captures their attention and interest. For us, we have our special and unique selling points, we are a hybrid of experiences between the small and larger islands. We fall in between both. We are not too small and we are not too big and have a little of what each of these categories boast. The pink beaches on Barbuda and the moderate development make that island extremely memorable. The warmth and ease of the people and the beaches and accommodation range of so many truly intimate resorts and of course our tried and true ownership of our 365 beaches, makes Antigua a beautiful complement to Barbuda. To date, I believe we are still the only island that offers non-residency requirement for getting married; the historic Shirley’s Heights overlooking Nelson’s Dockyard, Betty’s Hope; all remnants of our British history is particularly unique as it is celebrated in very unique ways. In general, there is a calm and ease to the destinations.
TRO: How does the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority help travel agents provide the best travel experience for their clients?
MW: For this spring, our Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism have launched an Exclusive Offer to our travel agents providing them with special experiences on island. We are spending the time to truly highlight our history, culture, our cuisine and the plethora of accommodation offers on island.
TRO: What is your favorite travel destination to date?
MW: “All of them”
TRO: What can agents and other travel industry experts expect to see coming from the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority?
MW: A significant increase in activities and awareness. We intend to make Antigua and Barbuda the, “Buzz” of the region with visitors sharing “Bragging Rights” with their friends when they return home. We want our visitors to say upon their return, “I just returned from Antigua and Barbuda, I cannot wait to get back…I checked out the bird sanctuary; did the zip lining; ate at some great restaurants on the beach; spent time knowing the friendly people; you should come with us the next time”.
For more information on Marie Walker and the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority, visit them online at www.visitantiguabarbuda.com.