By Orville Williams
The Ministry of Tourism is preparing for a notable increase in investment projects, over the course of the next year. The disclosure was made by Minister of Tourism, Charles Fernandez, at the Welcome Ceremony & Cocktail for the 2019/2020 Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Cadet Corps, last Friday at the Royalton Resort.
Fernandez said that there are several infrastructure projects already in the works and some to begin in the next couple of months.
“The government is working really hard to bring a number of other projects on stream. I can tell you that [like] Best Western – off the top of my head – that is going to be completed next year. It’s presently in construction phase at Jolly Harbour,” he said.
He added that along with the Hodges Bay Club and the Royalton, the Hammock Cove Resort is scheduled to open on December 1st.
One resort, in particular, already has plans for rapid improvement, Fernandez added.
“The Royalton just completed the first phase – they are going to be putting in another 250 rooms along with the 300 they presently have – and [of course] they just came to an agreement with the government, where they are going to take over the Halcyon Cove Hotel. We signed off a concession agreement with them, where they are going to start construction/remodeling as early as April 2020,” he explained.
The Waldorf Astoria – which is the first of its kind in the Caribbean – was announced since 2017 and construction, which had begun, had stopped. The minister shed some light on that project.
“That is a CIP-led investment, so that would not move so quickly as if the people had the money up front – but the financiers came to Antigua a few months ago and met with myself and the Prime Minister and they are committed to putting the funds forward to ensure that the development continues. What they’re doing now, is they have a new management company that’s going to take over the handling of the construction of the hotel,” he disclosed.
Barbuda, which has been struggling with infrastructural investment since the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, may also see some developments soon.
“In Barbuda, we have Paradise Found, which is the [Robert] DeNiro project – they have started work there. What has held up that, is that after Hurricane Irma – you had a Category 5 [with] sea swells that came over the island – these things were never experienced before and as a result of that, they had to look at their plans, bring in experts and make adjustments to ensure that they could manage the possibility of another Category 5.
“They had to do a number of changes. They had to also do a whole new environmental policy plan and that is being completed, but there are about 30 or 40 Barbudans already employed there, clearing the property. They have [also] started to put some offices where they can start to operate from, so we are hoping that will start in earnest, by early next year,” Fernandez shared.
The Minister also shed further light on the cruise tourism projects that have been discussed recently in Cabinet.
“We have, as you know, the cruise port that’s going to start. We have already started the pier [and] that’s going to be completed next September. We have the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line – that is also partnering with the cruise port – but they are going to do a separate investment down at Fort James, which is going to be like a theme park, at [a cost of] US $100 million. They want to start as soon as possible,” he said.
There will certainly be discussions with the principals of some of these projects this week, as the Caribbean Tourism Organization [conference] begins.
Speaking on that event, Fernandez said that, “you’re going to have the tourism ministers from most of the islands in the Caribbean here, the CEO for Royal Caribbean will be speaking there, one of the persons from Carnival Cruise Lines is also going to be in attendance and of course, the Global Ports Holdings representative will be there.
“It’s going to be a very important event and we are very fortunate to be able to host it in Antigua,” he added.