Government will be negotiating with the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Sunwing Travel Group, Stephen Hunter, to construct an additional 250-300 rooms to the Royalton Hotel, and this expansion would make it the largest resort within the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) sub-region.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne made the disclosure when the Cabinet visited the new Royalton Hotel (formerly the Royal Antiguan Hotel) at Deep Bay to witness first-hand the readiness of the resort which is expected to welcome guests from May 1st 2019.
“It’s one of the most impressive hotels within the OECS sub-region and beyond and I’m not easily impressed, but they have transformed the hotel property into one of the finest hotel properties anywhere in the OECS,” Browne said.
He added that the hotel would not only generate a significant amount of employment for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, but will also be a significant foreign exchange revenue earner for the government.
Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph echoed Browne’s sentiments, stating that the future expansion will improve the economic scale of the property.
“We need more rooms to take advantage of the several features of this property,” he said.
According to Joseph, the Royalton has more features than any other hotel property in Antigua and Barbuda and is therefore an important asset for economic expansion.
The 5-Star resort is equipped with five restaurants, steakhouse, pool gazebos, gym, casino, conference facility, overwater bungalows and more. More than 400 guests are expected during the first week of May 2019, with regular planeloads to follow each week.
Browne and Joseph both expressed satisfaction that the government was able to wrest the property from the hands of the previous owner who was doing nothing to upgrade or develop it.
“I just want to commend my Cabinet colleagues. They know how we had to fight the former owner. We had to threaten him with compulsory acquisition in order to get the property out of his hands,” Browne said. “We took the hard decision to take it from him and now we are about to reap significant benefits.”
According to the post-Cabinet notes, Sunwing Travel purchased the rundown property in 2017 from its Trinidadian owner, Issa Nicholas, for $27 million – which was $15 million more than Nicholas had paid the previous administration for the property in 2004.
The new owners are reported to have already spent more than US $100 million to renovate and upgrade the resort.
“I am very happy and I just want to wish Stephen Hunter and the rest of the Sunwing team every success and to reassure them of the full support of the government and people of Antigua & Barbuda. I’m quite sure that the visitor experience here would be second to none,” Browne noted.
The post-Cabinet notes stated that where before there was only a single building, now many new buildings adorn the 20-acre site and a new administrative wing has been constructed not far from the tennis courts. Executive suites, at ground level, also occupy the spaces where the car park and the road which once led to the front driveway were. The check-in area has been doubled with one area for those occupying the more expensive suites from those occupying rooms in the nine-storied building, which has been gutted and completely transformed. Walkways and open spaces that allow full view of the lagoon have been carefully placed, and landscaping has been thoughtfully added, with many workers assigned exclusively to the tasks of completing the gardens and green areas.