|Travel Agent's Joe Pike interviews Robert De Niro at Caribbean Week in 2015|
As part of Travel Agent’s recently-concluded coverage of Caribbean Week, we sat down with Colin C. James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA), and Shirlene Nibbs, tourism consultant to the Ministry of Tourism and ABTA, and learned that the resort, called “Paradise Found," could open in as early as 18 months.
“The good news is a lot of the planning has been approved,” James told Travel Agent during Caribbean Week. “They’ve cleared a lot of the hurdles, the environmental surveys, they are buying from the local communities, so everything should be starting imminently this summer. And we guarantee that within the next 18 months we will have another brand new resort in Barbuda.”
But the project, which is being funded by both De Niro and investor James Packer and is said to represent an investment of more than $250 million, has not come without controversy.
Several media outlets have reported that a good percentage of the island’s population had signed a petition late last year aiming to halt the project because it was “excessive and illegal,” according to the National Post.
It was at a Caribbean Week roughly two years ago when De Niro appeared at the 21 Club in New York City to first promote the project that aimed to turn Barbuda’s K-Club hotel into a luxury resort that would represent a $250 million investment.
At that time, De Niro told Travel Agent, "I’ve always looked for places over the years to find houses personally, but also for building a dream resort and I came across that place in Barbuda.”
Waldorf-Astoria Gives Antigua New Clients to Target
The Paradise Found project isn’t nearly Antigua and Barbuda’s only hotel buzz. In fact, in early May, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Hilton's luxury brand of landmark hotels, announced the signing of a management agreement with Callaloo Cay Antigua for the brand’s first new-build resort in the Caribbean, Waldorf Astoria Antigua.
“Because of the brand loyalty that chain has, it gives us a great opportunity to market the destination to people who have an affinity toward that product line,” James told Travel Agent during Caribbean Week.
Scheduled to open in 2020, the hotel will be located in a cove along the southeastern coast of Antigua at Morris Bay Beach, roughly 20 minutes from V.C. Bird International Airport.
The resort’s 95 guest rooms and 25 branded villas, including beachfront suites and hilltop accommodations, will offer views of the bay and its surroundings. Waldorf Astoria Antigua will offer 30 acres of beachfront as well as a bluff overlooking the Cades Bay.
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