Brian Dobbin discusses sustainability as a destination for Antigua & Barbuda
ANTIGUA & BARBUDA’S SUSTAINABLE PLACE IN THE FUTURE
Of all the places in the world that can offer themselves as a sanctuary and haven, I can say from my experience that Antigua & Barbuda ranks amongst the most desirable, and with the increasingly substantive cracks we are seeing in our societies, becoming a residential haven for the world’s elite offers a real and sustainable pathway to ever-increasing prosperity for the country.
This is already happening, and the Antigua government has been on the front edge of the region in this regard. From the nomad visa program to aggressive COVID action, the leadership in the country has sent out the right message to those people around the world whom by virtue of their success or good fortune can be anywhere they want to be.
The evidence of this is seen in this picture of the runway at VC Bird International Airport lined with private jets last year as the pandemic raged.
We’ve already been attracting these ‘gold collar’ immigrants through the Antigua & Barbuda Citizenship by Investment program since 2014, and the beneficial effect of having these types of people as residents is being profoundly felt today.
Real benefits – like significant investment being made into Jolly Harbour and its surrounding environs, signalling the start to a major re-development of the area; vaccines being offered to the country shortly after they started being produced by wealthy international Antiguans; multiple new medical centers being created on-island by recent economic citizens to the country.
Having spent 25 years in luxury residential real estate development in a lot of different places in the world, I’ve seen again and again the ripple effect of affluent people discovering a new destination and what that means to economic stimulus and growth there.
While resorts and all-inclusive hotels have long been seen as economic-drivers given their direct employment numbers, the longer-term impact of residential tourism on local entrepreneurism yields rewards that sustain themselves much further and deeper.
Firstly, having a growing class of these residents creates more and more opportunities to provide the goods and services international visitors require when they come. These are fertile entrepreneurial grounds for creating small businesses, and as they flourish they expand the business gentry class in the community.
Secondly, these international uber-citizens bring investment capital and ideas and other people like them, and gaining critical mass in this regard creates a gravity that can turn a small forgotten port city into Monte Carlo, and a floundering European principality into Monaco.
Strategies like having Robert De Niro as the Economic Ambassador for the country has assisted every one of us who have been out in the world selling the twin islands for both investment and visitation.
Assuming we all agree on the multi-generational benefits that elite international residents bring, what then can Antigua do to continue to attract them and reap the positive influences to its society that follow?
Hold the course – and lean into it. The CIP program offers a real lure to discover the country, and with a natural pressure on it from the world’s largest largest tax-collectors, it needs to be guarded and protected with a feverish zeal.
Residential tourism – is a good thing and should be encouraged as much as possible. Luxury villa developments give the infrastructure needed for this class of international citizen to stay for a period of time, and truly enjoy and appreciate the natural delights of Antigua.
Promotion – is the key to everything. I have always felt that Antigua & Barbuda has the right ingredients to really distinguish itself internationally as a coveted and special place to spend time. This means focusing on the high-end in the promotion and attaching the Antigua & Barbuda brand to quality names and events.
All of this is known and has been in action for some time, especially under the current administration, and it is absolutely the right path to follow. Having Robert De Niro as the Economic Ambassador for the country has assisted every one of us whom have been out in the world selling Antigua & Barbuda for investment and visitation.
I remember my friend Ricky Skerritt when he was St. Kitts & Nevis Tourism Minister unveiling the new private jet terminal plan he would go on to build, and while the impact it has had in that country can never been measured, it has been a significant attraction to what Ricky called ‘CIP’s – commercially important people.
So this is not a critique or call to arms, rather a ringing endorsement of the right things that have been done, and are being done, to create a truly sustainable future for Antigua & Barbuda. As the world heaves and strains from rapid globalization in the social media age, I am more and more optimistic about where we are in Antigua & Barbuda and where we can go.