Prime Minister Gaston Browne has made a compelling case for increased diversity in the hotel sector and for greater emphasis to be placed on luxury tourism.
The prime minister made the remarks when he appeared as the featured speaker at the University of the West Indies Five Islands Campus’ Public Advocacy Series.
According to Browne, the government has had to reconsider its approach to the types of hotels it welcomes into the country to operate.
He said while there is a place for mass tourism, highlighted by the popularity of budget friendly all-inclusive hotels, he does not believe that the country should be overly reliant on this market.
“In as much as we recognize that mass tourism or all-inclusive tourism could be a contributor in case of providing jobs, we do not believe that we can depend upon all-inclusive for the empowerment of our people because they don’t generally pay well and what we have found is that it is not an optimal model for Antigua and Barbuda.
“We do accept that you need all-inclusive and that type of mass tourism to fill the ‘back of the plane’, but when you look at the structure of the economy, we do not produce much of the products that these hotels consume,” he revealed.
The prime minister said the mass tourism model is better suited for larger territories like Mexico and the Dominican Republic where there are also thriving manufacturing industries which reduces their reliance on imports and where other unique synergies exist that may be exploited.
“The idea that you have people working in a sector that is not generating sufficient income to fund a mortgage, that is an issue that we believe we can address by transitioning to high-end tourism,” he stated.
He also pointed out that priorities in the tourism reliant country have also changed.
Decades ago, he noted, the aim was employment creation. Today, however, his government has adopted the view that every Antiguan and Barbudan ought to be able to afford a home, a vehicle and a higher standard of living.
With the coming of the COVID-19 pandemic, the prime minister said his administration has vigorously pursued the introduction of luxury tourism with the construction of scores of luxury homes at Jumby Bay, Windward Beach, Mill Reef Club and PLH project in Barbuda.
These properties will provide employment opportunities for locals even in off-peak tourist seasons when their owners have left as they will require property managers and array of other services to ensure their upkeep and maintenance.
PM Browne used his appearance at UWI to encourage the university to launch a programmed in property management to meet the needs of this growing sect