By Carlena Knight
Antigua and Barbuda looks set to see one of its historical sites transformed into an entertainment and amusement centre as Jamaican company Chukka Caribbean Adventures prepares to expand its operations in the region.
Fort Barrington, which is adjacent to the Royalton Antigua resort in Five Islands, is the site that has been selected.
The 18th century fortress is situated on Goat Hill, the westernmost entry point into St John’s Harbour, and was built on the strategic hilltop to control entry into both St John’s Harbour and neighbouring Deep Bay.
As such, it was an important part of the triad of forts built more than 200 years ago to protect the rapidly growing trading town of St John’s.
The area is a popular spot for both residents and tourists who are in tune with nature and history as persons can hike up the hill to the fort’s ruins.
The news was announced in yesterday’s Cabinet notes.
Chukka Caribbean Adventures is billed as the Caribbean’s largest nature-adventure tour operator.
It is a Jamaican grown company which has been in operation for more than 35 years and has developed many tourism sites in Barbados, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.
The group will spend up to US$5 million improving the site’s historical offerings, as well as allowing for exploration of caves and other natural assets, including a beach.
The project will be a joint investment between Chukka, the National Asset Management Company (NAMCO) and other local entities.
Cabinet spokesperson Melford Nicholas explained what sparked the interest of the regional company in coming to the country’s shores.
“Their interest in Antigua now has to do with the fact that they have indicated that Antigua has a good blend of cruise tourism and stay-over arrivals, while not at the same volume or similar ratios to what they have in other markets.
“They have looked at what we have been doing with cruise tourism, the development that is taking place at cruise ports,” Nicholas said.
The renovation of Fort Barrington is not the only historical site that government is hoping to upgrade as, according to Nicholas, “there are several other sites like Shirley Heights and Monk’s Hill and several others that over a period of time they could seek to improve and add to the overall appeal of our tourism product”.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the government and Chukka Caribbean Adventures is expected to be signed in the near future, with construction tipped to begin soon after.