Last updated: 04:30 PM ET, Tue June 02 2015

Antigua Enlists Star Power in Pushing 'Aggressive' Tourism Development

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | June 02, 2015

Antigua Enlists Star Power in Pushing 'Aggressive' Tourism Development

PHOTO: Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne (left) inks a pact with star actor Robert DeNiro for a $250 million resort development. (Courtesy of the Antiguan government) 

Antigua & Barbuda government officials are trumpeting a vigorous effort to expand the country’s tourist arrivals, and they’re bringing out some significant star power to do it.

Antigua’s “aggressive policy” of new property developments and infrastructure improvements includes an airport expansion and several new resort developments, highlighted by a $250 million Barbuda development backed by Academy Award-winning actor Robert DeNiro.

“We will transform Antigua and Barbuda into an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean by bringing significant investments into the country,” said Gaston Browne, Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister, at a gathering with media at New York’s 21 Club Monday.  

“We have been instrumental in signing $3 billion in investment plans,” he said, including the renovation and expansion of Barbuda’s defunct K-Club resort into a new luxury property through a partnership headed by DeNiro and Australian businessman James Packer.

“They have already acquired the land, and they are now preparing with the drawings and other preparatory work,” said Browne. “Mr. DeNiro's investment is of critical importance to the future of Antigua,” added Asot Michael, Antigua & Barbuda’s minister of tourism, economic development and energy.

Browne added that Canadian travel supplier Sunwing Group will “in the next 90 days commence construction of a 500-room Royalton resort adjacent to the Royal Antiguan hotel.”

Also, Chinese investor Yida Zhang recently broke ground on a $740 million development on Antigua’s Guiana Island that is slated to include two five-star hotels; 1,300 residential units; a casino and conference center; a 27-hole golf course and a marina among other features. The massive development will be the Caribbean’s second largest, exceeded in cost only by the $3.5 billion Baha Mar development.

Michael said Antigua’s government has also signed a $200 million agreement with China’s Import-Export Bank for a new cruise ship terminal and facility in St. John. The development will include a hotel, a casino and retail outlets.

The dual-island nation is also nearing completion of a new terminal at V.C. Bird International airport. The expected September completion of the project will create "The most modern airport in the entire Caribbean," said Michael.

While the country is seeking to diversify its economy, “Tourism will continue to be the major driver of economic growth and development in the country for the foreseeable future,” Browne said.

“It is an area in which we continue to attract significant investments,” he added. ”You can be sure that in an area of three to five years we will double our present room stock from 3,500 to 7,000 rooms.”

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