PM Browne says new investment holds ‘lots of opportunities’ for locals

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The 18th century fort is set for a transformation (Photo by Discover Antigua Barbuda)
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Antiguans and Barbudans are being assured that they will not have to compete with Jamaican company Chukka Caribbean Adventures and their new investment.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne gave the assurance following concerns raised by locals over last week’s revelation that the regional tour operator will be transforming Fort Barrington, one of the country’s historical sites, into an entertainment and amusement center.

The group is expected to spend an estimated US$5 million on the project.

PM Browne mentioned that he expects a lot of opportunities will be derived from this project for locals not only in the transportation and farming industry but entertainment as well.

“We have even asked them to make sure that they do not compete with the local bus operators and the catamaran operators. So, we expect the traffic by sea and by land being offered by Antiguans and Barbudans. There will be a lot of spin off benefits, all the produce and meats that are available locally we expect them to buy them.

“In the entertainment, we will utilise local people to provide entertainment, so it is a project in which we have secured the interest of the local people even the ownership interest of at least 20 percent,” Browne explained.

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.

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. 

Chukka Caribbean Adventures is billed as the Caribbean’s largest nature-adventure tour operator 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 not be demolishing the site but will instead be improving the its 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.

The renovation of Fort Barrington is not the only historical site that government is hoping to upgrade as, according to Information Minister Melford Nicholas last Thursday, “there are several other sites like Shirley Heights and Monk’s Hill 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.

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