The Honourable Asot Michael,Minister of Tourism, Economic Development & Energy visited Toronto for his first meeting in his capacity as Minister to meet with the travel trade media. He was accompanied to Canada by Mr. Rohan Hector, Special Advisor to the Minister and Chairman of the St. Johns Development Corporation and Mr. Colin James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority. Ms. Ann-Marie Layne, Antigua and Barbuda's Consul General in Toronto joined the delegation for the meeting.
The Minister opened the session by expressing his gratitude on behalf of the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda for the decades of a mutually rewardingrelationship with the people of Canada. He shared with the journaliststhat tourism is Antigua and Barbuda's main engine of economic growth and the importance of Canada as a source market for visitors. Canada has recorded a robust 20% increase in arrivalsto Antigua and Barbuda for each of the past three years.
In anticipation of more people desirous of coming to Antigua, Minister Michael said the new airport terminal, equipped with jet bridges, multiple VIP lounges, and high-end duty free shops,will be the largest and most modern in the Eastern Caribbean. This is scheduled to open in March 2015. The Minister also shared the government's plans to increase the number of hotel rooms, already signing an agreement withYida International Investment Antigua for a US$2 Billion resort development. This development will include the construction of five-star hotels, a golf course, 1,300 residential units, shopping facilities, a modern conference center and a casino. In addition, the 400 room Beaches Resortoperating under the Sandalsumbrellawill break ground early in the new-year.
Minister Michael divulged that plans for Antigua's future tourism expansion and a more modern infrastructure will includea new economic development zone at the iconic Nelson's Dockyard. Inspired by the successful yacht and boat basin development around the island of Sardinia, the newly legislated zone will consist of high-end low-density winter housing.
St. Johns Harbour is also slated for transformation. The media were told that preparations are being made to make the seafront more picturesque and economically vibrant by the construction of a boardwalk with shops and restaurants and anchored by a resort hotel.
In a lively question and answer session that followed the Minister's address he said several new hotels will be built and several existing properties will be refurbished and placed back into full commercial operations. These include The Royal Antiguan, The Hodges Bay Club that will be restored and The Half Moon Bay that have attracted interest from potential investors.
In closing the Minister Michael reiterated the government's determination to continuously improve and upgrade the tourism infrastructure and facilities. He extended an invitation to the media to visit Antigua and Barbuda to personally see the improvements so that they could confidently report to the Canadian travel industry.