The Adrian Loveridge Column – Let Barbuda be the Model
For the vast majority of us we can only imagine the heartache, despair and hopelessness that many of our neighbouring islands are still enduring after the passing of Hurricane’s Irma and Maria. Purely, from a tourism perspective I was recently asked to participate on the Antigua based Observer Radio’s current affairs programme, Big Issues to discuss the devastation and rebuilding of Barbuda.
One of the panel participants was a gentleman named Everett Christian, who according to his current LinkedIn profile is a Project Manager, Revenue Reform at the Ministry of Finance, Economy and Public Administration with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. Prior to this he was a Country manager at ABI Bank Ltd, Corporate Relation Manager at First Caribbean International Bank and holds an MBA in Management from the University of the West Indies.
What impressed me the most about his contribution was that we should see this as an opportunity to re-build, in this case Barbuda, in the most responsible and eco-friendly way possible. While he did not specify all aspects of this suggestion, my interpretation was to use solar energy, water conservation, like grey water systems, planting of sustainable vegetation, incorporating enduring building materials including hardwoods like Greenheart and architecturally ensuring rebuilt structures are more hurricane resistant.
Barbuda holds a very special place in our overall regional tourism offerings, and will never, thankfully, become a mass tourism destination, so it is absolutely critical to its economic survival that any regeneration is done properly.
Many talk about other sectors, but according to data, agriculture only accounts for around 2 per cent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of Antigua and Barbuda and other sectors like online gaming and offshore banking have been under severe pressure for several years.
Recently Hollywood actor Robert De Niro and Australian billionaire James Packer (son of Kerry) announced they were willing to invest a quoted US$250 million into redeveloping the former and now abandoned K Club. With around five decades of history and association with Barbuda, Mr. De Niro clearly has a deep affection for the island and this would seem the basis of an economic marriage in heaven that could be negotiated.
And clearly he is willing and more than able to assist, according to a recent CNN Money videoed interview. While understanding there are land ownership issues for the entire population yet to be legally settled, it would be an imperative that widespread local involvement is a prerequisite, so that there is a common objective.
While it is easy to envisage a truly luxury five star resplendent 50-100 unit hotel with all the associated trappings, maybe there is also a unique opportunity for residents to own and manage five to ten full service boutique properties to compliment the ‘main’ accommodation choice.
Clearly any rebuilt and expanded tourism offerings will require staff and a myriad of supporting services. This could easily provide the bedrock for sustained economic recovery.