By Elesha George
The government of Antigua and Barbuda has announced plans to acquire a second hotel property in less than a week.
Two days after disclosing that it would take over the Jolly Beach Resort following failed investor negotiations, Prime Minister Gaston Browne yesterday revealed that the government is about to take over what was to be a $200-million hotel project scheduled to be completed more than a year ago.
The Callaloo Cay resort – to be dubbed the Waldorf Astoria Antigua – was to become a five-star sustainable luxury resort created by Al Caribi Antigua Development Limited, a joint venture between Sheik Tariq Bin Faisal Al Qassimi of Dubai and the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
The more than 30-acre property was to be home to the Waldorf Astoria brand’s first Caribbean-built resort.
However, ahead of Thursday’s budget presentation, the prime minister revealed that the government has been making plans to take over the entire operation and is set to cancel the partnership.
“It is true that we’re about to cancel the partnership that we had with Callaloo Cay and that the government of Antigua and Barbuda will be pursuing that project on its own,” he told House representatives.
In January 2020, Browne reported that a bank had taken over Qassimi’s shares and was working with the government to continue the project.
But after repeatedly asking for more time to mobilise funds, Minister Lennox Weston told Observer that the government “ran out of patience”.
He said after their initial request for time had expired, the bank wrote to the government again asking for an additional six months.
While the scale of the government’s project hasn’t been decided, the concept, the minister said, is to create a service centre with condos for sale.
Weston shared that the facility could possibly start with a US$50-million budget in the first phase with a possibility for expansion in the future.
In 2017, then tourism minister Asot Michael said at the ground-breaking that the property would be “designed and tailor-made by the House of Versace exclusively for the Palazzo Versace Hotel”.
The government had hoped that the resort would not only provide more hotel rooms for the country but increase tax revenue once completed in late 2020.