A team from international hotel operator Apple Leisure Group is currently touring the Jolly Beach Hotel in Antigua with the hope of taking over management within sixty days.
Tourism Minister Charles Max Fernandez said the group arrived in the twin island nation on Monday and included several professionals.
So far they have held talks with Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Environment Minister Molwyn Joseph and Fernandez.
“They have been here for two days. We are hoping to move forward and open Jolly Beach in time for the season as we need more rooms. They understood what we needed,” Fernandez explained.
He said preliminary talks seemed to indicate satisfactory results with a view to getting the hotel back into operation.
The architects and engineers are expected to arrive in Antigua over the weekend to continue the process.
Earlier, the government announced that top hotelier Rob Barrett, the man behind the successful Elite Island Resorts brand, had refused further participation in Jolly Beach.
Damani Tabor, UPP’s public relations officer, told reporters that the whole process was mishandled.
At last count, there have been six separate announcements from buyers and numerous opening dates. With each announcement, former workers were told that their just due would take priority.
“As of September 2020, Sunwing withdrew from the agreement; In December, a Dutch investment of $300 million was identified. In May 2022, a potential buyer who would invest $200 million was announced. And again in the same month, Elite Island Resorts was commissioned to manage the hotel. In July, the Cabinet announced that the Barrett Group was no longer interested. On July 9, Gaston Browne said the government would buy the property and turn it over to Apple Vacations. If it weren’t such a serious issue, with the lives of patient staff literally at stake, it would be laughable,” Tabor said.
Furthermore, he said experts from the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority should instead take the initiative to find an investor to bring the complex back into operation.
“This Jolly Beach saga illustrates the need for a credible body to create a climate conducive to bona fide investors, as demonstrated under the leadership of the UPP. The Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority provided it,” he added.
Tabor also questioned the arrangements with Apple Vacations and the 60-day deadline to reopen the hotel.
When the hotel closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees owed millions of dollars in severance and back pay.