Financial fallout from Covid-19 blamed for delaying start of major tourism project

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Karlena Knight

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According to local tourism officials, financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are delaying the opening of the first Royal Beach Club Royal Caribbean International (RCI) on the island.

In May 2019, this newsroom reported that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines would partner with Global Ports Holding (GPH) to create an entertainment facility, where the cruise line was considering three locations at the time of this report.

One year later, in February 2020, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and RCI, with the assistance of the Consulate General of Antigua and Barbuda, signed an agreement marking the start of the planning and construction phase of the Royal Beach Club at Fort. James, which was originally scheduled to open later that year.

But according to Tourism Minister Charles “Max” Fernandez, RCI had to put those plans on the back burner.

“A few months ago I read a letter in Parliament in which they indicated that due to Covid they were under serious financial constraints, like most cruise lines if not all, and as a result of this they should postpone it because the key now is to get the entire cruise business back up and running to ensure revenue flows before they start considering these types of expenses,” Fernandez explained.

He added that RCI has not abandoned the project, but they are now taking the necessary steps to advance the innovative development.

“In this letter to the Prime Minister, they indicated that they fully agreed. The last time the team and I were in Miami for a meeting, we met with Royal Caribbean and they indicated they were finalizing the blueprints. They were very serious; they wanted to do this because they have property in the Bahamas and would like another one for their guests. So they are very much in agreement with that,” he said.

Fernandez said there should be many opportunities going forward through their partnership with RCI.

“They will also come here in the first week of July to hold a job fair and we hope to be able to gather up to 500 people. [workers] that they are willing to accept, 18 years and above. We also want to get the steel band they promised us and they said they are still on board with it, the Antigua steel band on one of their cruise ships.

“So, there are many opportunities that will open up through the relationships that we develop,” Fernandez added.

Exclusively for Royal Caribbean guests, the resort will sit along over half a mile of pristine coastline, combining the island’s stunning beaches with signature cruise line service and amenities.

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