OBSERVER: The 60-day timeline announced seven weeks ago for the reopening of the Jolly Beach Resort has now been extended to Christmas.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas told yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing that the estimated reopening date had had to be postponed following the signing of a memorandum of understanding with US holiday firm Apple Vacations and reassessments of the works ahead.
“The memorandum of understanding sets out a 90-day window that will allow us to achieve all of these objectives and, once we have completed that, then of course we will be able to go into some portion of the operationalisation of occupancy at Jolly Beach,” he said.
“That is the reason why I would have said we are not likely to be in a position at the first of October to have the services available, but certainly within that period before Christmas we would expect some type of operationalisation of the project to come into force,” Nicholas explained.
Founded in 2001, Apple Vacations is billed as North America’s fastest growing leisure resort company with properties across the Caribbean, Central America and Europe.
Despite the revised timeline, Nicholas was optimistic about the latest developments surrounding the property.
In fact, he revealed that a sum of US$200,000 had been available to the Public Works Department to begin the clean-out and renovations.
Following that work by the government, Nicholas explained, Apple Vacations will do its part in supplying technical support and assistance for key areas of the project.
He said it is imperative that the hotel gets up and running so that the country can garner the “maximum benefits” during the tourist season.
Hopes had been high that the resort would be returned to its former glory when news was announced in May that eminent hotelier Rob Barrett was set to invest millions into the resort and take over its management.
Those hopes were dashed last month when Cabinet revealed that Barrett, whose Elite Island Resorts chain includes the Verandah and St James’s Club, had “declined any further participation”.
In early June, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that under the agreement with Elite, US$10 million would be invested into the property as part of a loan to the government.
The money would have gone towards the repair and rebuilding of several of the hotel’s structures, according to Browne, and also aid with compensating the resort’s former workers who are collectively owed more than EC$7 million in severance and outstanding pay.
Efforts to sell the property also hit a snag in recent months after it was revealed that there is a US$15 million charge on it by a creditor.
That matter is still before the court and the government is awaiting a decision.
But with Apple Vacations said to be firmly on board and money earmarked for essential works to begin, the hopes that were once lost for the resort appear to be on the rebound.