By Shermain Bique-Charles
The eminent businessman behind Elite Island Resorts looks set to add another hotel to his hospitality portfolio.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne confirmed on Saturday that Rob Barrett, who already owns several major hotels in Antigua including Galley Bay Resort and St James Club, will soon manage the Jolly Beach Resort.
Barrett is said to be investing US$10 million into the beachfront property which closed more than two years ago, leaving hundreds of people out of work.
The money is really a loan to the government to repair the hotel and rebuild some of its structures, according to Browne.
As part of the deal, Barrett will be entitled to operate the facility.Browne says the loan will also deal with compensating the resort’s former workers who are collectively owed more than EC$7 million in severance and outstanding payments.
“We held discussions with Barrett, perhaps one of our largest hoteliers, for the government to borrow the money and quickly repair the hotel and various facilities.
“We will have to rebuild some of the facilities including the restaurant and get some new equipment. It will cost about USD$10 million. We will give Rob Barrett a management contract to operate the facility,” Browne said.
“We are empathetic to the situation with the workers…what the government is trying to do is salvage the situation, buy the property and pay them their severance,” he added.
The government took over the property in 2020 due to the business owing millions of dollars to the state, including in outstanding Medical Benefits and Social Security contributions.
The 464-room resort has been closed to vacationers since March 2020 when travel to the twin island nation came to a halt as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.