Financial impact of Covid-19 blamed for delayed start to major tourism project

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By Carlena Knight

[email protected]

Financial constraints brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic is the reason for the delay in starting  Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI) first Royal Beach Club on the island, according to local tourism officials.

In May 2019, this newsroom reported that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines would be collaborating with Global Ports Holding (GPH) in creating the entertainment facility, where—at the time of that report—the cruise line was considering three locations.

A year later, in February 2020, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and RCI, along with the assistance of the Consulate General of Antigua and Barbuda, signed an agreement to mark the start of the planning and development stage for the Royal Beach Club at Fort James, which was initially scheduled to break ground later that year.

But according to Tourism Minister Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez, those plans had to be put on the back burner by RCI.

“I read a letter out in Parliament a few months ago where they indicated that due to Covid, there had been some severe constraints financially on them, as is most of the cruise lines if not all, and as a result of that, they would have to put back that because the main thing right now is to get the whole cruise business back up and running, to ensure the income is coming in before they start to look at these kinds of expenditures,” Fernandez explained.

He added that the project has not been scrapped by RCI, but that they are now taking necessary steps to move forward with the ground-breaking development.

“They indicated in that letter to the Prime Minister that they are very much on board. The last time myself and the team were in Miami at a meeting, we met with Royal Caribbean and they indicated that they were now completing the drawings. They were very serious; they wanted to do it because they have a property in The Bahamas and they would want another one for their guests. So, they are very much on board with that,” he said.

Fernandez said a lot of opportunities should be opening up in the future through their partnership with RCI.

“They are also going to be coming here the first week of July to do a job fair and we are hoping that we can get up to 500 [workers] that they are willing to accept, 18 years and above. We are also looking to get a steel band which they had promised us and they said they are still on board with it, an Antiguan steel band on one of their cruise ships.

“So, there are a lot of opportunities that will be opening up because of the relationship that we have been developing,” Fernandez added.

The resort will be exclusively for guests of Royal Caribbean and will sit along more than a half-mile of pristine beachfront combining the island’s striking beaches with the cruise line’s signature service and amenities.

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