How would you define the yachting industry’s current role in Antigua’s economy and how is Falmouth Marina contributing?

This area, English Harbour, is the major economic hub in Antigua and Barbuda. More happens here than anywhere else, although this is not always recognised. 90% of the money we earn goes back to St. John’s. For instance, this marina buys about a million gallons of fuel per season from West Indies Oil, in which the government is now a majority shareholder, so not only are they making money from taxes but also from dividends. You also have commercial activity and taxes. This is a very important part of the economy.
This yachting industry also employs a lot of Antiguans and Barbudans. Perhaps 150-200 Antiguans get work on these boats when they come in. Antigua yacht workers have a reputation around the world for being some of the best. We have some of the best carpenters, painters, and varnishers. This is one of the reasons that Antigua is an ideal destination for megayachts. Incoming crews also contribute significantly to the local economy. They all eat out at night, they rent cars or use taxis, play tennis and squash in the afternoon, they go to the beach, etc.

“ This area, English Harbour, is the major economic hub in Antigua and Barbuda. More happens here than anywhere else, although this is not always recognised. 90% of the money we earn goes back to St. John’s.”

Historically the government has focused more on the cruise ship industry than on the yachting industry. How would you describe the cooperation that exists between the private sector and the government to develop the yachting industry in Antigua and Barbuda?

Not much has been done by government to promote the yachting industry. The yachting industry has taken care of itself, and I think we have reached a point where the government has to get involved. In fact, Minister Asot Michael is now looking at a major marketing program for yachting. He’s approved a proposal for a major campaign to promote Antigua as a yachting destination, and now it’s a matter of finding US$2 million to do it.
A huge cruise ship coming right up into the city and 3,000 people coming out into the city looks good. Whether those people are spending EC$20 or EC$50 we don’t know. These are megayachts and they have to maintain a certain standard. As soon as they come they have to restock, and that’s where the local economy benefits. I have seen one of these yachts go into town and spend EC$80,000 in a supermarket. We have had the problem that St. Martin is cheaper because they are a tax-free destination. This is something that we hope the government will eventually address.
Fuel is duty free, so we can compete that way. Anything that is called ‘in transit’ comes in free of cost, but that doesn’t apply to provisioning. If we can get some kind of concession in provisioning then there would be no reason for these boats to leave here. Other than that, the government is beginning to understand the importance of this industry.

After a very successful life in the communications sector, you have ended up managing the country’s main marina. What brought about this change?

The person who was the majority shareholder is a good friend of mine. When Sir Hugh Bailey was retiring, he called me and said they were looking a manager. To me it was just a challenge. I’m the kind of person who will do anything as long as it’s a challenge.
It was not as difficult as people will think. I had the expertise to fall back on. These are guys who have been together most of their lives, they think together and there is no real conflict. I have just slotted right in.

What closing message would you like to convey to the readers of Newsweek magazine?

Antigua is an ideal place for yachting, and we have got the facilities. Not just for yachting if you have your own yacht, but if you want to pick up a charter. These big megayachts are here from December to May/June and they are looking for charters. We are an ideal place to pick up a charter or to come and sail. It’s a safe island with nice people, and it’s a great place to get away from it all.