The cruise industry has grown exponentially in the past few years with Antigua hosting around 800,000 cruise passengers in 2018. Please give us your output Antigua and Barbuda’s cruise ship industry?
The Caribbean is the number one cruise destination in the world, and Antigua is one of our highest rated destinations. Our guests are very attracted to Antigua and Barbuda and we are looking to expand our operations on this beautiful island.
Royal Caribbean will open its first Royal Beach Club in Antigua in 2021, available only to passengers of Royal Caribbean cruise ships. It is the first of several planned Royal Beach Clubs worldwide. Why did you choose Antigua and Barbuda as an investment destination? And what opportunities do you see in the country?
The Royal Beach Club is a new concept for the company and aims to give our guests the ultimate beach day. Antigua has world-class beaches making it an ideal location for us to launch our new concept; it is also one of the highest rated destinations for our guests. Our relationship with the government as well as the positive business environment has facilitated our entry into the market. The combination of all these factors makes Antigua a great destination for the first Royal Beach Club.
The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Antigua and Barbuda for the Royal Beach Club. You will also soon be able to bring Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships to Antigua. What are your priorities as Vice-President of Government Relations, Americas and what are your objectives for 2020?
The government of Antigua has been very proactive regarding the upgrade of its facilities, building and upgrading new piers large enough to accommodate the Oasis-class ships. The new piers will bring larger ships, which will increase economic opportunities for entrepreneurs, small business owners, restaurants, tour guides and other businesses of Antigua.
Our future plan is to increase our deployment numbers to the island; the ability to bring Oasis-class ships is a key component of this strategy. Furthermore we plan on bringing many of our guests to the Royal Beach Club so that they can experience the beaches and the culture of Antigua. The introduction of Oasis-class ships along with the Royal Beach Club will bring a huge increase of visitors from Royal Caribbean ships to the island.
Royal Caribbean Cruise International is the world’s. With the multi-million Royal Beach Club project. What expertise will Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited bring to Antigua? and how will you contribute to the growth of Antigua’s economy?
It is a collaborative process, we have a wonderful design team currently working on cultivating the Royal Beach Club experience and this is a unique project to Antigua and Barbuda. We want to incorporate local music, Antiguan food, culture and history of the two-island nation to make it a holistic experience for our guests. This is not only an opportunity to showcase the beautiful beaches but it is also about showcasing the culture of Antigua and Barbuda.
We have anticipated that the Caribbean as a whole will grow by 6 million cruise visitors in the next decade; we want to capitalize on that growth in the region and build the right infrastructure for our Oasis-class ships. In terms of job opportunities for Antiguans, there will be a rise in job growth as well as for small business creation and expansion. We are talking about lots of construction jobs, jobs for operating and maintaining the facilities, tour operators, musicians, restaurateurs, we want to make sure that we are providing opportunities for Antiguans and for the small business owners to participate in the process. In addition, we are in discussion with Antigua and Barbuda to not only provide jobs for the Royal Beach Club but we are also eager to recruit Antiguans and Barbudans nationals to work on board our ships. This is a partnership between a country and our company in every aspect.
Barbuda is an island full of opportunities. Will you also be bringing cruise ship passengers to Barbuda in the near future?
We would like to look at Barbuda in terms of its tour opportunities. We understand that Barbuda is a beautiful island with incredible nature and wildlife, once our larger ships will get to Antigua, we encourage tour operators to get creative so that we can introduce our guests to the beauty of Barbuda. We are very conscious of the importance of the conservation of the nature in Barbuda and we want to make sure we enter it in the right way as it is a very different island to Antigua. It is a wonderful opportunity for our guests to be able to see both, Antigua and Barbuda.
“The government of Antigua and Barbuda welcomes this multimillion-dollar investment into our tourism product by Royal Caribbean,” said the Honorable Charles Fernandez. What has been the role of the Antiguan government in making sure this project would take place?
We are looking at every opportunity to bring our Oasis-class ships to Antigua and throughout the Caribbean. The government of Antigua and Barbuda has been very proactive with respect to providing opportunities for infrastructural improvements. Our goal is to bring our large ships to Antigua, which will then facilitate the Royal Beach Club and increase tourism activities. We are really excited about our partnership with the government and we are eagerly anticipating the completion of the new pier project.
Preserving the environment for future generations is one of your key priorities. How important is sustainability and what are you doing in order to protect Antigua’s environment?
Sustainability and the development of sustainable destinations is one of the key pillars of our corporation. Our sustainability report is on our website and we are proud of that work. We are committed to environmentally responsible practices in all areas of our business whether it on our ships at sea, or our land-based destinations. We want to bring our guests to beautiful waters of the Caribbean and beautiful beaches of Antigua and Barbuda, in order for the business to still be running 100 years from now, we have to make sure that those waters and beaches are sustainably managed. We give great care into our construction and operation methods and we are very proud of our work with respect to sustainability. This environment is one of our key components to the way we operate as a business.
Your professional experience includes more than 20 years in government. Some of your previous postings include village manager at village of Hawthorn Spoon, City Administrator at City of West Park, City Manager at City of North Miami and Deputy Mayor at Miami-Dade County. You have been Vice-President of Government Relations, America’s Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited for over 2 years. What do you feel most proud of in your personal life?
I am really happy about having had the opportunity to join Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. It is a very well respected company in South Florida and the reasons I decided to join the team was the reputation, dedication to excellence and ethical contribution of the enterprise. The company’s commitment to sustainability and the development of opportunities in the Caribbean as well as globally made Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd very attractive. The cruise industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world and we are just getting started, the next decade is highly promising for the company. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd is the leader in cruise tourism and we have a number of exciting projects around the world.
What is your final message for Miami Herald readers who consider Antigua & Barbuda as a potential investment or tourism destination?
I would encourage our guests to take a hard look at Antigua and Barbuda. It is a beautiful place with spectacular beaches unlike any other country and this is the reason why we are investing and building the Royal Beach Club. We believe that our guests will experience something very unique.