New Anguilla Chief Minister Promises Tourism Agency Overhaul
Photo: Ce Blue Villas is one of several popular Anguilla resort properties.
In a “state of the nation” address Tuesday following his sweeping victory in April’s general election, Anguilla’s new chief minister promised to re-structure the country’s tourism agency.
Victor Banks, a former finance minister whose Anguilla United Front party won six of the seven government seats at stake, said his government will make “some early and sweeping adjustments to a number of statutory bodies” including the country’s tourist board. In his new role as chief minister, Banks is also minister of finance, economic development, investments and tourism.
“There is no question that these institutions deal with extremely important aspects of life on Anguilla,” said Banks, who promised to make “urgent critical decisions” regarding the tourism board’s future.
He said the previous administration under the Anguilla United Movement party had demonstrated “a total absence of clear leadership and direction among government and quasi-government tourism agencies,” according to Banks. “Indeed there has been confusion."
Banks also pointed to the British overseas territory’s financial status, including tax arrears of more than $4.4 million owed by the operators of the Cap Juluca luxury resort, which has been mired in financial difficulties since a 2012 bankruptcy filing.
“Checks from Cap Juluca have not been cashed over that period, yet the property has been operating in a state of flux for over two and a half years,” said Banks.
“The impact of a lack of decision-making on Cap Juluca is both affecting the viability of that property as well as the ability of the government to meet its budgetary commitments,” Banks added. Local media reports say “over one hundred” Cap Juluca employees have been terminated and several of the resort’s villa accommodations have been removed from the hotel’s inventory.
Long considered a “boutique” Caribbean destination that features several upscale resorts and villa properties popular with high-end travelers, Anguilla hosted 70,927 overnight tourist arrivals in 2014 according to Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) data, a 2.7 percent increase over 2013 but the third-fewest among the 28 destinations traced by CTO.
Anguilla’s tourist board has supported several Anguilla events including this month’s Anguilla Lit Fest, the Moonsplash Music Festival and the Festival del Mar. The popular Malliouhana Hotel & Spa re-opened in November 2014 following a three-year closure and subsequent restoration by Auberge Resorts.
Still much like the country’s tourism agency, Banks said Anguilla’s public infrastructure requires an overhaul.
“There has been no public sector capital development of any consequence in the last five years,” he said. “To put it bluntly, the government has not spent sufficient money on building roads, improving the quality of government properties, repairing and improving port facilities, and developing the infrastructure capacity generally, to accommodate increased usage over time.”
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