ST. JOHN'S, Antigua and Barbuda – 1st November, 2014..... Preparations are well advanced for confering of the National Honour of Knight Companion of the Most Exalted Order of National Hero on Former Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and Parliamentary Representative of the St. John's Rural East Constituency, the Hon. Lester Bryant Bird at the National Ceremonial Parade on Monday.
Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne in his address to the nation to celebrate the country's 33rd Anniversary of Independence, announced that the Hon. Lester Bird is one of the architects of the new Antigua and Barbuda and is deserving of the country's highest honour.
“Sir. Lester was an outstanding athlete during his youth. He was an outstanding cricketer, a footballer, and he earned his spurs in high jump and long jump. He subsequently graduated from Grays Inn, London, as a lawyer before returning home to Antigua to practice law. He served our country in excess of 40 years as a Parliamentarian, including 18 as Deputy Prime Minister and 10 as Prime Minister,” the Hon. Gaston Browne stated.
He said that the Honourable Lester Bryant Bird is a heroic figure in the country's recent history, pointing out that unarguably, he has made the second single largest contribution to the socio-economic advancement of Antigua and Barbuda.
“He is the father of modern Antigua & Barbuda. I am certain that Antiguans and Barbudans consider the Hon. Lester Bird most deserving of this honour and also share the enormous outpouring of love and admiration that we all hold for this outstanding son of the soil,” PM Browne concluded.
Following the tapping on the shoulders with the sword by Governor General Sir Rodney Williams and the placement of the insignias of the Order of National Hero, the former prime minister will be known as The Right Honourable Sir Lester Bryant Bird.
The National Ceremonial Parade will commence at 7:45 a.m. at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium at North Sound on Monday 3rd November.
ST. JOHN'S, Antigua and Barbuda – 2nd November 2014.........On Saturday 1st November, His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Bourbon Two Sicilies, The Duke of Castro, Grand Master of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George and Princess Camile and His Eminence Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino, Grand Prior of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George and members of the Order commenced a four-day visit to Antigua and Barbuda.
The Party received a Guard of Honour upon arrival and during the course of day one of their visit, met with Governor General Sir Rodney Williams and Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne and members of his Cabinet and other government officials.
In addition, the Morris Bay resort will see the construction of a high end resort valued at US$120Million and Barbuda will benefit from a US$250M luxury resort for high net worth individuals. The property will be developed by a renown American Celebrity and an Australian Billionaire.
Our Government pledged to treat Barbuda and Barbudans as our co-equals and we will ensure that Barbuda is developed concurrently with Antigua. This US$250M investment project will change the economic land scape of Barbuda for the better, providing investment opportunities and hundreds of sustainable jobs for Barbudans.
These and several other smaller properties, will break ground in 2015, stimulating economic growth and development, thereby reversing the many years of economic misfortune.
The cruise and cargo ports will be expanded and modernized to facilitate increased trade. Through assertive leadership, my government in partnership with members in the private sector have been instrumental in attracting more tourists to the island. 2015 will see a significant increase in cruise arrivals, as well as, an increase in stay over visitors.
And 500 new homes will be built in 500 days across the nation.
To date, we have incorporated the National Housing & Urban Renewal Company, a wholly owned government corporation and have capitalized the company primarily through private grant funding, with an initial EC$13M, and a further EC$7 million to follow in a few weeks, bringing the initial capital to EC$20 Million.
The company is presently acquiring and developing land to commence construction in a few weeks.
National Housing will serve as a development company and will also be involved in contracting activities in the public sector to assist with the repairs and maintenance of government buildings.
Government properties that are to be rehabilitated, including the Police Headquarters, the Newgate Street Police Station Building, and Government House.
Our Administration has requested concessionary funding of US$40 million from the Government of Mexico to assist in housing renewal and expansion. We are determined to rid the landscape of all those dilapidated homes that are littered across the country.
It is expected that National Housing will provide several hundred jobs for citizens and residents before the end of the year and thousands of jobs in the near future.
The new University College of Antigua and Barbuda will be launched at Five Islands, a site to which the Antigua State College will be relocated.
The old State College site will become a Secondary School to meet growing demand. In excess of six million dollars will be invested in the decrepit structure that stands unfinished on the college compound. Construction is expected to commence before the end of the year.
Presently, we are pursuing sustainable strategies to resolve the water crisis that has plagued our country for the past year. This includes the acquisition of a mobile reverse osmosis plant to service the English Harbour area, as well increased production from, SembCorp and APUA existing water production facilities.
We will rebuild our country. We will provide hundreds of jobs within our first few months in office. We will put our people back to work and provide them with good quality housing.
And, in that rebuilding there is a place for every willing citizen and resident of our country. No one will be left behind.
One of the architects of the new Antigua and Barbuda is the venerable, emeritus leader of the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party, the Honourable Lester Bryant Bird.
Sir. Lester was an outstanding athlete during his youth. He was an outstanding cricketer, a footballer, and he earned his spurs in high jump and long jump. He subsequently graduated from Grays Inn, London, as a lawyer before returning home to Antigua to practice law. He served our country in excess of 40 years as a Parliamentarian, including18 as Deputy Prime Minister and 10 as Prime Minister.
The Honourable Lester Bryant Bird is a heroic figure in our recent history. Unarguably, he has made the second single largest contribution to the socio-economic advancement of our country.
In recognition of his contribution and keeping with the authority vested in the Prime Minister by The National Honours (Amendment) Act 2000, the Governor General has been advised, with the concurrence of Cabinet and the Honours Committee, to confer upon this great citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, during the 33rd Anniversary of our country's Independence, the honour of Knight Companion of the Most Exalted Order of National Hero. I am certain that Antiguans and Barbudans consider Sir Lester most deserving of this honour and also share the enormous outpouring of love and admiration that we all hold for this outstanding son of the soil.
He will enjoy his flowers while still alive.
My fellow Antiguans and Barbudans, Independence is not just a word or a concept. Independence is what gives us the right to make our own decisions as a nation; the privilege not to bend our knee to any but God; the opportunity to claim our entitlements in the international community and to resist the pressures and demands of external forces.
But, we will not preserve our independence like large nations with military might; we can only defend it and enlarge it by economic success. That is why we all have to work together; strive together and achieve together. That is why we must work in unison in the transformation of our country into an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean. Independence is a time for rejoicing and reflection on past challenges and achievements. It is also a time to look to the future. The Antigua and Barbuda we want for our children and their children is one that perpetually rises – producing jobs, and communities free of crime. We want an Antigua and Barbuda where everyone can share in prosperity; where opportunities are available to all who are willing. Achieving those worthy goals is within our capacity and within our reach. Let us make this 33rd Anniversary of Independence, a celebration of Team Antigua and Barbuda, and all that our nation can achieve as one. I am happy to lead this team and to lead by example of hard work, sharp focus and a resolve to deliver. I invite you all to join me, in what for all of us, will be an exciting, dynamic and wholly beneficial journey in the advancement of our nation.
God bless our beautiful twin island state. I thank you
In recent years Chinese tourists have been touted as the new opportunity for growth of the industry in the Caribbean. But how realistic is this prospect for countries in the Caribbean, many of which are now reliant on tourism for employment and foreign exchange income?
Until there is huge investment in marketing, airlift, tourism plant, and language training, the prospect of an appreciable and steady flow of Chinese tourists will remain remote. If Caribbean countries genuinely want a share of Chinese tourism, rigorous work has to be undertaken now to make fundamental preparations for what is a long-term project. The more that countries delay in making such preparations, the more distant will be the likelihood of attracting Chinese tourists.
The urgency of investing money in organising for a future Chinese tourist market coincides with a bad time for Caribbean countries, many of which are experiencing economic difficulties. Several governments are simultaneously facing declining revenues and increasing costs to deliver goods and services to their populations. The amount of money that is needed to invest in a future Chinese tourism market is simply not available to any individual government. Nonetheless, it would be imprudent of Caribbean governments not to act together to start developing the Chinese market.
In this context, Caribbean governments should consider mandating a regional organisation such as the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) to undertake the preparatory work now on their collective behalf. It might require the establishment of a special unit within CTO devoted to this work which would be considerable.
The work would include a comprehensive study of what Chinese tourists would want from tours to Caribbean countries; the capacity of airports, including immigration and customs for dealing with Chinese visitors; facilities for moving large numbers of people on land tours; the ability of hotels to cater in the Chinese language for guests; signage in Chinese; the capability of police forces to protect Chinese tourists who tend to travel with cash and an array of electronic devices; the provision of Chinese cuisine; the elimination of visa entry requirements for Chinese tourists; and very importantly affordable air lift from Chinese cities to Caribbean countries.
The latter point concerning air lift is crucial. The journey between China and the Caribbean is long and there are no direct airline services. The need to break the journey either in North America or Europe increases the length of the journey and its cost, putting it out of the reach of the majority of Chinese tourists.
A recent report by the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) provides instructive information on Chinese tourists. The most significant statistic – and the one that causes such allure for Chinese tourism – is the amount of money spent by Chinese tourists. In 2013, 98.19 million Chinese travelled abroad, spending US$128.7 billion – an increase of 26.8% from 2012. Of that huge sum of money, 57.6% was spent on shopping; 17.82% on accommodation; 10.88% on transport; 5.84% on food; and 7.4% on entertainment. The number of Chinese touring abroad also increased by 18% in 2013 over the previous year.
However, there are many challenges to the task of pursuing a share of the large Chinese tourist spend. For example, the majority of Chinese tourists – 56.21% of them – earn about US$1,600 per month and 22.26% earn US$2,400 or more. These figures suggest that given only the cost of travel, Chinese tourism to the Caribbean will be limited to a smaller, high-end market. This conclusion is re-enforced by figures which show that the four most popular destinations for Chinese tourists are cities in nearby South Korea and Japan to which the cost of travel is considerably less than long-haul flights.
Of course, smaller numbers of Chinese are also travelling to Europe and North America, but surveys indicate that they want – and expect – better services, including persons proficient in the Chinese language at hotels, shopping centres and tourist sites; security from crime; and sensitivity to their cultural differences. To attract a portion of the Chinese tourists who can afford to travel beyond their neighbouring countries, the Caribbean will have to learn from the experience of European and North American countries in catering for them, including showing them respect.
Additionally, the Caribbean will have to compete against other destinations that are closer to China, such as Indonesia, Maldives, Thailand and the Philippines that, like the Caribbean, offer sun, sea and sand, and many more historic heritage sites. These destinations already have a jump on the Caribbean through programmes designed especially for Chinese visitors.
The US and Canada are also competitors – although there is potential for complementarity between Caribbean countries and some North American regions – for double-destination tourism. This possibility has many challenges but it could be pursued for the benefit of countries that take advantage of it. Links between airlines serving China and the Caribbean from North America would be especially important.
US airlines and US Airports are working hard to gain more Chinese business. For instance, American Airlines launched new routes in to Shanghai and Hong Kong from its hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in June. Not to be outdone, Delta Air Lines launched a non-stop flight between Hong Kong and Seattle in the same month, and United Continental Holdings added a route from San Francisco to the central Chinese city of Chengdu. All the airlines cited “the consistent growth in the number of Chinese leisure travellers venturing abroad” as the basis for their investment.
Interestingly for the Caribbean countries that enjoy 'designated' tourism status by the Chinese government, this year, Air China also launched non-stop flights between Beijing and Washington, D.C, while the smaller Hainan Airlines, which had already been flying routes to Seattle, Chicago and Toronto, launched a service between Beijing and Boston. It is with these airlines that Caribbean Tourism agencies and airlines could usefully engage.
There is certainly a higher end Chinese tourism market that Caribbean countries can pursue, but there is much work to be done at a regional level to identify the challenges and opportunities, and at the national level to make themselves 'Chinese-ready'.