Government should focus on five-star property development

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The United Progressive Party’s (UPP) spokesperson for Economic Development and Rural Transformation said that the government needs to concentrate its efforts on creating five-star properties rather than constructing more hotels.
Cortwright Marshall told OBSERVER media yesterday that this would increase more diverse airlifts to the country, ensuring that not just economy class is filled when planes arrive here.
“We are not short of hotels; what we are short of are five-star properties that will allow us to fill the front of a plane that would, therefore, position Antigua and Barbuda in a better light to attract [new] airlines that are willing to come, that would enhance our airlifts,” he said.
The St. Mary’s South constituency caretaker noted that the UPP divested the Royal Antigua property to a Trinidadian entity, and now the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP)-led administration has sold it to Sunwing.
He said that while the redevelopment and the construction of the neighbouring property is a welcomed move, the quality of rooms must complement the investment.
“What we are looking for is not just any hotel, but five-star hotels that will do justice to Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism especially in terms of visitor arrivals and visitor spending and quality employment for the people,” he said.
Marshall buttressed his statement by pointing to the Jolly Beach Hotel and Halcyon Cove that he said only managed to reach occupancy levels at an average of 40 percent.
“Jolly Beach we know was one of the larger hotel properties, and so what I am suggesting is that if we enhance and improve and retrofit our larger hotels that it may do better justice to our tourism numbers and visitor spending rather than just building more hotels,” he added.
Last year, the then Royal Antigua Resort located at Deep Bay, was sold to the Canadian company, Sunwing Travel Group, for US $27 million.
This occurred after Issa Nicholas of Trinidad and Tobago bought the hotel for US $18 million in 2004, with a performance clause to spend US $12 million to upgrade it to a first-class conference centre.
 The building was subsequently left in a state of disrepair for years.
Nicholas later sold the property to Sunwing for a profit.

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