St. Vincent Enters Deal With Holiday Inn for Construction of Hotel Near Argyle International Airport

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has signed a contract for the construction of a state-funded 92-room Holiday Inn Express and Suites, with Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves reiterating that the state has no interest in becoming a hotelier.

RApKITsPrime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves after signing the agreement with the CEO of NH International, Kit Kennedy.NH International (Caribbean) Limited has been awarded the contract to build the EC$52 million (US$19.2 million) hotel at Diamond, about 10 minutes from Argyle International Airport (AIA).

It will be financed partly through a grant from the CARICOM Development Fund, financing from the National Insurance Services and local funds, the finance minister said.

“The government is adding over the next two years or so almost 350 rooms to the hotel room stock,” Gonsalves said, noting that the state-funded Marriott Hotel at Mt Wynne will have 250 rooms as part of the government’s efforts to increase hotel room stock and build the tourism sector.

“The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not interested in being a hotelier so we’re not going to start a ministry of hotel operations. The Holiday Inn Express will be professionally managed, not by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and we will remain open to what happens to the hotel down the road once we have added to the room stock of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and, similarly, the Marriott will be a professionally-run outfit.

“So, I just wanted to point out that our interest, from a policy perspective, is to add room stock to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We do some of that through our own resources as the government. We do some of that by attracting investment from Sandals, Royal Mill, Maya Suites, La Vue Hotel, PACE — the Black Sands Resorts and all the rest of it,” the Finance Minister said.

He told the signing ceremony in Kingstown that the country “climbed that mountain of air access” with the opening of AIA five years ago.

Gonsalves said that in the absence of an international airport, the hotels that developed were small, “essentially, that one flight by LIAT could fill them”.

But he said the country now has to have “different layers and different levels of hotels” and the government recognized “that we needed to have room stock in the vicinity of the airport at a particular price point”.

He said that a 92-room hotel within 10 minutes of the airport is significant, as it would become the largest hotel in St. Vincent, but will quickly be eclipsed with the completion of the Beaches Resort.

“So, by the end of next year – in time for the tourism season next year – this hotel will be built and we’ll continue the complete transformation of the Diamond area,” Gonsalves said.

He noted that the Sir Vincent Beache Athletic Stadium is also under construction in the area that is also home to the Centre of Excellence and the Hospitality Training Institute.

“And this particular hotel will be one of the jewels of that transformation. Imagine when you have track meets, you have CARIFTA Games at the stadium. You know where the athletes will be staying. Imagine when you have businesses that will engage in meetings with the government — large delegations — you know where they’ll be staying.

“…Venezuelan flights are coming up from Venezuela before they move on to Cuba and the like, you know where some of these guests will be staying. So it’s an important part of the renaissance of the Diamond area,” he added.

Minister Gonsalves said the government envisages the Holiday Inn Express at Diamond to be a teaching hotel for students at the nearby institute.

“I’m very, very happy that we’re at this point. I thought that we might have gotten here a little sooner, but again, we all had challenges related to COVID and the volcano. I’m very happy that we have an entity building the hotel that has a track record of complex construction across the Caribbean, that has a track record of delivering projects on time and on budget, that has a track record of building hotels in the Caribbean,” he said.