World’s largest operator to revolutionize Antigua and Barbuda’s cruise industry
Exciting developments are underway since leading international cruise operator, Global Ports Holding PLC started operations in the country.
With an existing cruise presence in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asia-Pacific regions, as well as commercial port operations in Turkey and Montenegro, its ambition is to turn Antigua and Barbuda into one of the top cruise destinations in the Caribbean. While the country’s cruise industry has grown exponentially in the past few years with around 800,000 cruise passengers in 2018, GPH’s CEO Mr. Emre Sayin believes there is further scope for it to realize its full potential. “Antigua is a very well-located tourist destination for cruise ships. The island is one of the highlights of Southern and Eastern Caribbean cruise itineraries. It can be reached directly out of Miami, San Juan (Puerto Rico) and other major ports in the Eastern Caribbean. As a destination, its natural beauty and welcoming hospitality makes it a very attractive place to visit.” - says Sayin.
After signing a US$ 80 million exclusive 30year concession agreement with the government of Antigua and Barbuda, GPH is planning to make an initial investment of around US$ 50 million to complete a new pier within 12 months. Once finished the pier will be capable of handling some of the world’s largest cruise ships, with over 6000 passenger capacity. As part of GPH’s investment, US$ 25 million will be spent to improve the shopping complex at the port and develop additional retail and restaurant facilities. “We are collaborating with Royal Caribbean Ltd. and other cruise lines to improve the facilities and bring in more and bigger ships to the island. We are keen to improve the cruise passenger experience throughout their visit – we will work with others to reach this goal.”
Antigua is the company’s third location in the Americas region and one of their eighteen cruise ports worldwide. Sayin believes the company’s global experience and the best practice model that it has developed will be crucial in its successful delivery in Antigua. “We currently operate cruise ports around the world from Singapore to Barcelona, to the Bahamas. The expertise we have developed is the designing, building and operating of cruise ports - we turn best practice into standard operating procedures and implement them in new ports and destinations. At the same time, each location has its own specific characteristics and we work with governments and local experts to ensure the implementation works in a seamless way and best supports the local population and economy” - states Sayin. The Antigua and Barbuda government has been very supportive of this initiative. “Our interests are very much aligned with the government’s. They want to get new investment and improve services and the visitor experience. They are very open to innovation and new ideas that benefit the country. It is very important for them that this project was developed in collaboration with local stakeholders” - says Sayin.
Another area where GPH and the government’s interests are well aligned is in the importance both parties give to the protection of the environment. GPH says it has sustainability and environmental concerns at the heart of its operations. “We seek to protect the destinations in which we operate and enable them to be enjoyed by the cruise lines and passengers that use our port facilities. At Antigua, as is best practice, GPH ensured an Environmental Management Plan was carried out. Key elements of the construction phase of the development include noise mitigation and water quality maintenance.”
The development will help more visitors to access and enjoy the destination, Sayin believes. “It is widely said that Antigua makes for a perfect holiday 365 days of the year, thanks to its temperate climate. Tourists can experience an outdoors summer lifestyle during the winter months and the summer itself is mild. Add to that that there are in the region of 365 beaches, which means there is a new beach for each day of the year!”. He not only recommends to tourists “to book a cruise tomorrow”, but as the location develops further, he also invites local business owners who can provide innovative products and services that improve the customer experience to come and collaborate on this exciting project.For GPH, the operations in Antigua mark an exciting milestone in what has been a busy and exciting three years. In 2017, the company listed publicly on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), with the ambition to expand the footprint of its operations from its primary Mediterranean base to the Caribbean – the world’s largest cruise market, as well as Asia – the fastest growing. The addition of Antigua and another recent contract in Nassau, Bahamas, are expected to increase GPH’s total passenger volumes for 2020 to close to 14 million globally. He hopes other governments in the Caribbean, and further afield, will also look to partner with the company in the coming months and years.
“30 years ago almost all airports were managed by governments, but with time most got privatized as technology and operations developed. The result was an important improvement in the efficiency and experience of the whole air travel industry. I do not see why this could not happen in the cruise industry, and we are well placed to help governments achieve this."