This includes interest from Royal Caribbean International, now that St. John's fifth berth can accommodate its massive vessels.
'Based on our current projections, we estimate that some 285,000 passengers could visit Antigua between October and December of 2021, depending on when cruising resumes,' said Dona Regis-Prosper, GM of Antigua Cruise Port.
With that in mind, Antigua Cruise Port is collaborating with the government to develop new health protocols to bolster measures that were implemented at the start of the pandemic. 'We want everyone to know that our port and our destination are safe to visit based on the highest global standards of cleanliness and COVID-19 precautions,' Regis-Prosper said.
She added discussions have also begun with cruise lines that haven't visited Antigua but are interested 'based on what we have created and on our plans for further redevelopment of the cruise complex. This new business will complement our plan to convert Antigua Cruise Port into a homeport by 2023, an idea which has piqued the interest of several major cruise lines.'
Next up: retail development
Antigua Cruise Port's next area of focus is the $2m upgrade of Heritage Quay Shopping Mall and the $25m commercial development at Pointe.
Plans include new retail and food and beverage facilities, plus an additional 50,000 square feet of commercial space to be leased to Antiguans and Barbudans.
'This expansion will create more opportunities for local entrepreneurs, which will, by extension, make a significant impact on the community,' Regis-Prosper said. 'The existing tenants of the shopping complex will, of course, be given priority.'
A triumph in the pandemic
The Oasis-class berth was finalized in November despite minimal interruption from the pandemic. The pier work was part of the $80m agreement signed in 2019 between Global Ports Holding and the government of Antigua and Barbuda to redevelop the cruise complex.
GPH has repaid $21m of debt on behalf of the government, which was tied to the construction of the Nevis Street Pier, Regis-Prosper said. 'We were especially thrilled to have maintained our construction timeline and finalized the pier project during the pandemic. Our construction team, port employees and other partners worked tirelessly to ensure that we remained on schedule and finished the job. We are very excited about the results.'
'Completing this pier was a huge priority for us,' GPH Chairman Mehmet Kutman added.
'As we expand our presence across the Caribbean, it is of the utmost importance that we follow through on our commitments to the destinations we serve. We believe in the Antigua tourism product and are pleased to have a very positive working relationship with the government, which has made this project much easier for us to complete.'
Kutman thanked Regis-Proper and the entire team at Antigua Cruise Port, Meridian Construction and all GPH port partners for making the successful pier completion.
Capacity for 1m cruise arrivals annually
Pre-pandemic, Antigua handled about 800,000 passengers annually. With the port's redevelopment under Antigua Cruise Port through a 30-year lease agreement between GPH and Antigua and Barbuda, the destination will be able serve as many as 1m cruise visitors a year.