The Caribbean is a highly attractive destination for foreign direct investment, but with intense competition among countries in the region to secure increased foreign contribution. What, in your opinion, are Antigua & Barbuda’s most significant advantages compared to other countries in the region?
In the tourism sector, which is what I can speak about, the difference is in the revenue we can achieve per night in the hotels compared with rest of the Eastern Caribbean islands. So, the things you build here because of the historic performance are much more profitable, that is a big incentive to investors to consider Antigua as an investment. That in itself gives us a tremendous advantage. We are investing in Nonsuch Bay and other properties taking advantage of that fact.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a specific effort by this administration to diversify the sources of tourism, with new airlines serving the country, deals with the United Arab Emirates, or the Yida Development Project. What are your plans to seize these opportunities and diversify your clientele?
On the hotel side, we already market around the world, through directly approaching websites and travel sites. As new markets emerge, we try to assure that we jump into them, there are new direct flights to the island and if you are savvy enough to take advantage of that, your business will have a significant increase.
On the Real State side, we are one of the projects taking advantage of the CIP and we are willing to keep taking advantage of that tremendous opportunity.
Nonsuch Bay Resort sponsors the top prize provided by Antigua Sailing Week’s. During this important week, Nonsuch Bay Resort provides all sailing equipment and featured a hospitality tent for RS Elite Challenge competitors and their guests and hundreds of spectators. What impact has these important events in the reputation of your Resort? And what challenges do you face to keep the high standards during this busy period?
We do it because part of what we offer here is sailing. Many resorts choose other entertainment activities, me and my brother decided to choose sailing. So, we try to link this to race week and doing something with them in the late days. It is actually a good chance to improve our benefits because the race week has changed a lot over the years, nowadays it is not an event for sailors but also for the family. So, we can take advantage of it.
The country is home to many luxury hotels such as Sandals, Galley Bay Resort etc. What makes this hotel different and how do you market and promote your hotel to the international market?
We conscientiously difference our product. Our accommodation is primarily designed as a home, by doing that, there is more space and despite of the fact that we are an all-inclusive hotel, sometimes people just feel like preparing a meal. We don’t have lot of public spaces in the resort, because they have more private spaces.
We don’t look at what our competitors are doing because we want to be different. The market is really competitive, and we have to make a difference, to stand out.
One of our biggest platforms for selling is clearly through the travel agencies: Expedia, booking… We do also lot of business with the traditional holidays providers. Internet has been our liberation though. A lot of our business is direct, this way we don’t have commissions or other expenses. Besides people can do research about us, give us feedback, and that’s good for our image.
Antigua & Barbuda is clearly a high-end tourism destination, and you are a high end and recognized brand. In what specific ways do you align your name to the Antigua & Barbuda brand and do you work with other tourism entities in this regard?
We are constantly helping the government to sponsor events; we host visitor events, for example CIU. When there is a big event, don’t call Sandals call us. We are known as Nonsuch bay-Antigua, as you can see on our logo and on my business card. We associate our brand to Antigua. We are proud of been here and being part of Antigua. We have done very well in this country, this is our home, and we are nationals. We chose to be here and reinvest our profits here. That shows our belief in the country.
Development sector is fiercely competitive, especially in such a touristic country as Antigua and Barbuda. The CIP has recently approved almost 45 Real Estate Development Projects in the country. What sets you apart from your competition? Do you have any plans of further expansion in the country or in the region?
We have no plans for further expansion in the region, I’m already a man of a certain age and there is always a certain amount of stress you want to take off and if it is working, keep simple and make sure it works.
Talking now about what sets us apart from our competitors, I’d say is that we were able to go to the market not just talking about the fact that we were thinking about building up something but with the reality about doing something. We were able to say we are doing something. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.
After several years involved in the expansion and development of many projects in Antigua, such as Redcliffe Quay and the expansion of cruise tourism, what have been your greatest achievements during your career?
So far, the upgrade of Heritage Quay pier. Along with my brother, we were really involved planning and delivering the project with the government. The day of the opening was a great day. It is a small country with limited resources, but when a clear vision can be described, as in this case, we can do it.
Readers of Harvard Business Review include some of the most influential business leaders and decision makers in the world. Do you have a final message as a conclusion to this interview?
There are a lot of opportunities here. If you decide to invest in Antigua, you are investing in the beginning of an investment circle. Antigua is a place worth considering and worth visiting. The obvious opportunities are in the tourism sector but there is also opportunity in the retail sector. To give an example, if you go to London and think about what can you do there probably you won’t figure it out, but that’s not going happen in Antigua, because there is still a lot of things to do. Antigua wants to grow, it wants to attract expertise, capital and skills and to become, as the prime minister said, an economic powerhouse.
Come and see, there are a lot of preconceived ideas. And Antigua is not just about the lovely sea, sand and people, there is also something extra.