HonourableAsot Michael Minister of Tourism, Economic Development & Energy Government of Antigua and Barbuda Meeting with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, (FCCA) Opening Remarks
First of all, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all of youand Michelle in particular fora wonderful dinner last evening and for meeting with us today.
Antigua and Barbuda and the cruise industry have enjoyed a mutually rewarding relationship over the decades.
The industry has seen considerable growth in its business with Antigua and Barbuda over the years, and we are delighted that we have been able to offer that opportunity.
It has been mutually beneficial, and we want to enhance it both in the near and long terms.
We welcome the decision of our key cruise partners to increase their calls for the upcoming season, and, of course, we will do all in our power to facilitate those calls.
I want to give you some information on what my government is planning for the tourism sector as a whole, since this will impact the Cruise Ship business as well.
First, I have already undertaken a number of visits to key tourism partners in the United States.
This is my second visit to the US since we came into office two months ago, and I will be leaving from here to visit other partners in Canada.
We are determined to grow our tourism industry which still has room to do so while maintaining high environmental standards and a strong Caribbean image.
Delegations led by Prime Minister Gaston Browne will be in China, next week; and in Mexico in October.
The principal objective of these visits is to raise financing and attract investors in the tourism sector.
We expect that, from Mexico, more than US$40 million dollars in bilateral cooperation will flow.
From China, we expect to see a mix of grants and loans exceeding US$100 million dollars – part of which will be to expand our port.
This will be of immense benefit to the Cruise Ships now calling at Antigua.
Specifically, we intend to improve the inner St. John's Harbour significantly.
Dredging and sweeping of the channels and turning basins will commence before the 2015 tourism season, and will end before many of the megaships begin to set sail.
We also plan to transform the St. John's Harbour and the lands encasing the inland sea.
A boardwalk, shops, restaurants, and a hotel will be constructed on the seafront making the area far more picturesque and economically vibrant.
This will be a boon to Cruise Ship passengers who venture on to our shores.
The plan is to transform the Point area and turn a run-down neighbourhood into a vibrant economic zone.
On the wider tourism scene, hundreds of millions of dollars will be invested in enlarging capacity, ensuring a more modern infrastructure, and improving the visitor experience.
Several new hotels will be built, enlarging the number of available rooms and beds; and several existing properties will be refurbished and placed back into the stream of commerce.
The Royal Antiguan will be sold shortly, and an additional hotel constructed on the property.
The Hodges Bay Club will also be resuscitated.
The Half Moon Bay Hotel has attracted new interests with a great likelihood of it being resurrected.
The Halcyon Cove, the Morris Bay property, Guiana Island and its environs, will also see significant injections of new capital as developers race to make the best of the energy and drive of the new administration. We have signed a memorandum of understanding with China's Yida International Investment Antigua for a US$2 Billion resort development that includes the construction of five-star hotels, a golf course, 1,300 residential units, shopping facilities, a modern conference center and a casino.
We will also early in the new-year break ground for a 400 room “Beaches” Resort as part of our expansion with the Sandals Resorts International group.
Falmouth Harbour will also be developed, preceded by consultations between Government and the environmentalists.
At Nelson's Dockyard, my Government intends to create a New Economic Development Zone. That newly-legislated Zone will encourage very low-density winter housing, not unlike the successful yacht and boat basin, witnessed by members of my Government, around the island of Sardinia, close to the Italian mainland.
You can see, therefore, that we have exciting plans ahead.
But they are not just plans written on paper; they are backed up by contracts and by the financing required to bring them to fruition.
We recognize that one of the big challenges we face as a cruise destination is to provide facilities to accommodate the new larger vessels that are being deployed.
This is a top priority, and we are engaged now in trying to identify investors who might like to invest in a separate port at a different part of Antigua – either onecustom built for Cruise ships only, or one that becomes an exclusive container port, leaving the current Port, suitable expanded, Cruise Ships.
We are prepared to examine beneficial incentives to an investor or group of investors willing to take advantage of this opportunity.
Any idea that you may have on this score would be welcomed.
We want you to assure you that we will be focusing strongly on the cruise industry.
But while I have given you information on our plans and renewed our firm commitment to the Cruise Ship industry, the primary purpose of my visit here today is to listen and to learn from you.