By Latrishka Thomas
With the aim of dismantling insecurities among fuller-figured tourists, the country’s very first plus-size resort will be the focus of a forthcoming eight-part documentary series, filmed on location in Antigua.
Work is currently underway to transform one of the nation’s oldest hotels – the Catamaran which began operations in 1968 and was built by local sailing legend Sir Hugh Bailey – to suit larger guests.
It is a joint venture between the family-run hotel and international brand ‘The Resort’ which caused a paradigm shift in the tourism industry two years ago when it was established in the Bahamas as a sanctuary for the heavier populace.
The Catamaran will become just the second of its kind in the region.
“We reached out to Feona Bailey at the Catamaran about featuring her property as the first plus-size friendly resort in Antigua and she immediately accepted,” James King, entrepreneur behind The Resort brand, told Observer.
“Feona has followed our plus-size friendly criteria and during this Covid crisis has transformed the Catamaran into a resort that will make a holiday in Antigua a must-do on anyone’s bucket list.”
Special training is currently underway for the Catamaran’s staff, along with work with local vendors and tour operators to ensure The Resort Antigua “shows the world the wonderful facilities, people and activities available to anyone visiting the island”, he explained.
King said the project resulted from his and wife Karin’s decades of experience in the hospitality industry.
“I realised we were not doing anything to welcome or accommodate the plus-size community. A look at our guests confirmed that the plus-size individual was not a niche but rather over 40 percent of the world’s population and we were doing nothing to create an environment to welcome them to our resorts or businesses,” he shared.
He further disclosed that he rejected several offers to host a reality show to avoid perpetuating discrimination against fuller-figured individuals.
“Almost immediately after opening the first The Resort Portfolio property, the level of media interest has been staggering. Many networks have asked to film a drama-laden ‘reality’ show at The Resort and I have walked away from every one of those.
“Why would anyone support more bias and stigma against someone just because they carried a few extra pounds? My goal was to create a safe haven environment where everyone was welcome and not add to the stresses individuals of size face in their daily lives,” the entrepreneur said.
King said however, that just before the coronavirus crisis struck, the couple accepted an offer to film a documentary instead.
“I was asked if I would be willing to do a positive, non-reality, factual eight-part primetime TV show about the trials and tribulations faced by individuals who are considered plus-size,” King continued.
“We are so excited to see the island of Antigua and its people featured in an international documentary TV series,” he said, explaining that filming will not begin until after the Covid-19 threat has dissipated.
King said one of the main reasons for using the Catamaran Hotel is “to show the hospitality industry that any property that wanted to become fully-inclusive and plus-size certified could easily do so”.
The Catamaran will be the first hotel in Antigua to become a part of The Resort Portfolio properties, and King hopes that many other businesses and resorts will join.
The Falmouth Harbour-based hotel is now busy upgrading rooms to welcome larger guests – including wider beds and sturdier furniture – and ensure they enjoy a comfortable and memorable stay.
“Being plus-size should no longer be an obstacle for anyone wishing to have a perfect carefree holiday,” King added.