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Gov’t in talks with cruise companies to provide accommodation for country’s largest ever conference

Negotiations are said to be underway with operators of cruise vessels

By Robert A Emmanuel

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For the biggest conference ever held in Antigua and Barbuda with over 5,000 delegates — to include top officials, policymakers, and activists — cruise ships will be used to provide additional accommodation.

That’s according to Lionel Hurst, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, who told Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing that along with the 2,500 hotel rooms earmarked as accommodation for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference, negotiations were underway with operators of cruise vessels to assist with providing accommodation for the event taking place next May.

“The negotiations are not yet complete so I don’t wish to speak out of turn, but in due course, we will share the name of the cruise vessel, the amount they will charge and how successful they will be operating from a port in St John’s,” he explained.

The American University of Antigua (AUA) has been constructing a conference centre to support 1,500 delegates from UN member states, plus officials, interpreters, conference personnel and press.

Ensuring a smooth transportation route to and from the conference centre will be top priority for the government, considering the congested nature of the country’s roads, especially Friars Hill Road and Old Parham Road—which all lead to the AUA campus.

“During that time, we anticipate that there will be 86 buses and 50 cars that will be utilised to transport those who are delegates from their hotels to the conference centre, and some of the hotels have already been setting aside some of the rooms and would require a down-payment,” he said.

It is expected that the conference will be executed at a cost of around US$6 million, but Hurst stated that the resources to cover this amount will be gained from external donors.

“We have already had pledges from our friends from China, the United States has indicated that it will assist, and the United Kingdom has also indicated that it will assist, and we have gone to faraway places in search of assistance in the UN context,” he explained.

He added that law enforcement officials have already been in talks with the government to discuss how best to handle the security operations at the venue and throughout the week.

Hosted by the twin island nation for the first time, the fourth SIDS conference will take place under the theme ‘Charting the Course Toward Resilient Prosperity’.

The May 27 to 30 event is set to agree a bold new programme of action for SIDS, with concrete, measurable, targets to support SIDS to achieve their sustainable development objectives over the next decade.