Minister of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy, the Honourable Asot Michael, has committed to working expeditiously to improve the St. John’s Habour facilities and to work with the cruise lines on a long-term relationship.
Minister Michael made the pledge last week in meetings with executives of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruise Lines – the region’s leading cruise lines. The Minister noted that this will ensure that cruise passengers have an improved visitor experience and the larger vessels, which will be delivered in the near future can be accommodated at the island’s port.
Minister Michael also used the opportunity to share the government’s development plans to put Cruise Tourism back as a critical component of the destination’s tourism product. He stated that this begins with the upgrade of Port St. Johns to modernize the facilities in keeping with a long-term infrastructural development.
In the early 2000’s the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) Administration was at the forefront of developing the cruise industry for the twin island state as the first destination in the Eastern Caribbean to have four berths dedicated exclusively for cruise ships.
Immediate plans for the upcoming season including work by the St. Johns Development Corporation to enhance the visitor experience with a new ground transportation dispatching facility were shared with the cruise lines. The long-term initiatives to dredge the harbour along with plans for a new landside development were also well received by the cruise lines. In addition, Minister Michael spoke of the Government’s plans to make English Harbour a duty free port, which will further drive economic activity with an improved shopping experience for cruise ship visitors.
The Minister pledged his support for joint investment opportunities between the cruise lines and the Government which will return the destination to its once leading position as a marquis cruise port on their itineraries. “The overall development of Antigua and Barbuda’s cruise industry will be against the backdrop of ensuring that there is sustainability in the destination’s strategies and day to day management and marketing. This coupled with the economic boom that will be realized by the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), will improve our future prospects and our ability to compete effectively in the cruise industry” Minister Michael concluded.
The Honourable Molwyn Joseph, Minister of Health and Environment, who brought his wealth of experience as a former Minister of Tourism also participated in the meetings. Other members of the Antigua and Barbuda delegation were Mr. Colin James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Mr. Nathan Dundas, Chairman, Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Association, and Mr. Rohan Hector, Chairman of the St. Johns Development Corporation.