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As the country prepares for the restart of the cruise sector, tourism officials recently toured the vendors square at the bottom of High and Long streets to assess the nearly completed upgrades.

The infrastructure is designed with a modern Caribbean architectural flair and will house 20 vendors, a release from the Ministry of Tourism said.

The facility, which is set to open in July 2021, will feature local arts and craft, two local food stalls, and restrooms.

Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez is said to be pleased with the progress to date, and the only major work outstanding is the completion of the walkway.

Projections are that over 200,000 cruise passengers are expected to visit the twin island from August to December 2021. Minister Fernandez is of the opinion that Antigua and Barbuda must be ready to put its best foot forward.

“2019 was a record-breaking year surpassing the million mark of cruise visitor arrivals to Antigua and with the dredging of the harbour almost completed, and the added expertise and investments from Global Ports Holding, the 2021/22 season looks extremely promising”, stated Minister Fernandez.

Vendors Square falls under the ambit of the St John’s Development Corporation (SJDC) and Executive Director Craig Whyte noted that the thrust to make the facility feature 100 percent local products is a part of a wider plan to authenticate the experiences of the cruise visitors to St John’s.

“We must be able to separate ourselves from our fellow counterparts in the region who will be competing with us for the tourist spend and as such our greatest weapon is to be authentically Antiguan in product delivery as this cannot be replicated anywhere else,” he remarked.

The project was financed by the Caricom Development Fund under its Country Assistance Programme.