By Kadeem Joseph
While Cabinet has reaffirmed plans for the dilapidated Jolly Beach Resort to reopen its doors by this November, the body’s spokesperson has revealed that Elite Island Resorts will not be taking it on as had been previously announced.
Speaking at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister of Information Melford Nicholas said that “the principal owners of the Elite Island Resorts have declined any further participation”.
Hopes had been high that the chain which operates a string of successful resorts across Antigua would be the panacea to bring the once-thriving beachfront complex back into operation.
Nicholas said while the Minister of Tourism Charles Fernandez was not present in Cabinet on Wednesday, he had asked Cabinet to consider a memorandum of agreement between the government and “another vacations entity” who wished to be involved in the project, but he was unable to disclose the interest’s name at the time.
“It is a well-known brand and I believe in the next week or so we will be in a position to indicate that we have come to an agreement,” he explained.
“The matter is now before the legal department and once that is completed, I believe the Minister of Tourism will be in a position to indicate what we are going to do with the Jolly Beach Resort.”
In early June, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that under the agreement with Elite, owned by businessman Rob Barrett, US$10 million would be invested into the property as part of a loan to the government.
The money would have gone towards the repair and rebuilding of several of the hotel’s structures, according to Browne, and also aid with compensating the resort’s former workers who are collectively owed more than EC$7 million in severance and outstanding pay.
Efforts to sell the property also hit a snag in recent months after it was revealed that there is a US$15 million charge on it by a creditor.
Minister Nicholas said that matter is still before the court and the government is awaiting a decision.
“Should we be successful in getting that matter lifted, then I think it clears the way for the full operationalisation of a newfangled Jolly Beach and we are certainly interested in getting that done.
“The government itself has put up some funds and funds have already been secured. So, I think it’s just a matter of days before the renovation of Jolly Beach starts to take place,” he explained.
The government is hoping that the resort will open in the winter season in order to capitalise on an increased desire to travel globally as the world recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that drastically limited travel.