02 February, 2010


What did Osborne and Victor think they were doing?  I was living in Anguilla in 1976.  I was the Magistrate.  I know, that makes me old.  More than that, it means I was present in 1978 when Emile Gumbs’ government adopted Anguilla’s first tourism policy.  With expert guidance, Anguilla studied the various models of tourism development in the region.  We came to the conclusion that the secret to success was to hold to a low-density, up-market product.  This policy was enthusiastically adopted by Emile’s government, Ronald’s subsequent 1980 government, and Hubert’s.  So, what happened to make us lose sight of the aim?

On 5 June 2007, Dr Aidan Harrigan issued a cautionary address when delivering the 7th Walter G Hodge Memorial Anguilla Day Lecture.  Everything was going well then, but he saw the danger.  That was six months before the present recession hit us.  He warned us at the time that the ten hotel projects recently approved by the Government were a disaster waiting to happen.  Do we remember the nature of the catastrophe that he warned awaited us?

Anguilla in the year 2007 was a tiny island with a population of some 10,000 souls.  We enjoyed full employment.  Our tourism plant then consisted of some 700 hotel rooms.  The rule of thumb is that approximately three employees are required to service one up-market hotel room.  All available Anguillian hotel staff were fully employed.  Hundreds of men were employed in the construction industry.  Thousands of men and women were employed in ancillary services, such as construction, drug distribution, massage parlours, music production, car rentals, agriculture, and fishing.  We thought we were doing well.
Executive Council next proceeded to consider approval of the construction of over 4,000 additional rooms.  They dealt with over a dozen major new hotel/condominium projects.  No independent Environmental Impact Studies were required.  These new projects were intended all to have been on stream by the year 2020. 
I actually get more than his ten projects, I get fourteen.  In alphabetical order, the ones I know about are:
1. Altamer Marina and Hotel expansion 164 units
2. Cap Juluca Cove Bay expansion        360 rooms
3. Crocus Bay Development                 50 rooms
4. CuisinArt Resort expansion              93 guest rooms and suites
5. Fairmont Hotel and Golf Course        730 rooms and suites
6. Flag Luxury Hotel & Golf Course       450 rooms
7. Frangipani Hotel expansion              50 rooms and 6 villas
8. Long Bay Development                   41 villas and 14 apartments
9. Rendezvous Bay Hotel expansion      450 rooms
10. Shoal Bay Development                 100 rooms
11. Seychelles Hotel                           Unknown
12. Viceroy Hotel on Barnes Bay          350 rooms
13. Viceroy Hotel on Meads Bay           Unknown
14. Viceroy Hotel on Savannah Bay      Unknown
How many Anguillian hotel development projects in the period 2006-2010 do you know about?
It is difficult to estimate the number of hotel rooms involved in these 14 projects that I know about.  Villas, units, and suites are multi-room accommodation units.  They involve any number of rooms.  Dr Harrigan’s best estimate was that, by the year 2020, Anguilla would be attempting to fill a total of 5,000 rooms.  Do remember that US visitors on average only come for a week at a time.  We would have to fill each of these rooms each week or two at the most.  These are double rooms, which means that 5,000 rooms could on average hold 10,000 visitors.  It does not take a lot to work out that we would have needed to find 15,000 hotel staff to accommodate them comfortably.  The pressure this number would mean on our schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, water, waste disposal, mortuaries, is unimaginable. 
The unsustainability of this approach is overwhelming.  Let us be honest.  We could not have managed it.  There would have been island-wide melt-down.  We simply could not have got 10,000 visitors into Anguilla, and out, every weekend.  American Eagle, LIAT and the Access Tsarina’s Anguilla Express would have to be working around the clock.  The present one-lady post at Customs at Blowing Point Port would have had to be multiplied ten times to deal with the traffic.
The impossibility eventually impacted even our leaders.  They put in place a moratorium on future hotel licences.  It did not last for long.  They then promptly proceeded to make exceptions.  For their friends only, of course!  All done with God’s blessing!
It is not correct to say that the recession rescued us.  The recession compounded the problem.  There was no accommodation for the needed extra 15,000 hotel staff.  Osborne and Victor hit on a solution.  They encouraged poor Anguillians to borrow heavily from the banks.  We were supposed to invest in building apartment complexes.  We would make our money from accommodating the foreign, imported staff needed to work at these hotels.  Then the recession hit.  There are no renters for the existing or planned apartments.  The apartment complexes lie empty.  Meanwhile, the bank loans had to be repaid.  With no income to make it possible.  The s*** had hit the fan.
That is where we are now.
Where do we go from here?
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  1. More is rarely better. It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that Anguilla cannot handle 10,000 visitors a week. Even if staffing (and living quarters for them) become available, what about transportation? The roads and the drivers that use them are wholly inadequate for movement of this many visitors. Anguilla would have been much better served by sticking to the boutique luxury market, instead of the mass market sought by greed, that in the end will cheapen the experience. Many of the resorts, if ever completed, will go the way of so many around the world that have failed, even if the economy is flush. Abandoned, half-finished projects add nothing but despair to an island that has little to offer other than beaches and a couple of good restaurants. It's sad that the AUF has allowed this to happen. - Scotty

  2. How can 2 men be so greedy and not think about the result of their greedy actions?

    Developers and governments have schemed and made deals behind closed doors for years. It is not good for any society to be led and controlled by governments that only see money in front of their eyes.

    How many more islands etc. need to be exploited by big developers ? NONE. Enough damage has been done for many lifetimes.

  3. Don thanks for your 'for dummies' explanation of the fundamental mistakes made by the AUF during their ten years in office.

    The sad thing is, no one is listening and the AUF will be voted back in office in just over a weeks time to either correct their mistakes or finish Anguilla off altogether.

    Which one will it be??? Only Jah knows.

  4. we are seeing the same growth on Bonaire..our guests come for our reefs..we have no sewerage system in place..our reefs are dying...meanwhile hundreds of new hotel rooms seaside are being built...no vision...me nah kay..that's the attitude. People, make a stand..take back your island..

  5. The problem with people is they always want to get back to where they were. Anguilla, just like my stock in AIG is NEVER going to get back to where it was. The government must assist in the forced repatriation of Fairmont and shoal bay villas. The belongers who were expanding need to simply cease. The real estate market is too OPAQUE.....to return to an economy, you have to let the fall happen so that money can move again. Real estate in Anguilla i about 35% too high relative to alternatives particularly since the island is now WIDELY VIEWED as troubled!!!....let the prices fall....reduce the stamp tax to 2%....let the banks finance up to 80% of the sale....let the govenment guarantee the loans...and let the economy begin to recover......It is a long road....but other islands are ALREADY recovering because they did not have the overhang that Anguilla created for itself.

  6. I thought Shoal Bay Villas were owned by Raymon and Kathy Haskins. Raymon and his family were here since before the Revolution. What is this stupidness?

    We don't do forced repatriation. This is Anguilla. Has Hugo Chavez moved here or what?

    If Raymon's on his list, who is next?

  7. I think the poster was trying to refer to the Shoal Bay Development mentioned in the post, and accidentally used the word "Villas".

  8. In view of a famous history of past failures which were highly touted at the time, does any sane person REALLY believe this is going to happen?
    Place yer bets folks.
    It's never going to come to fruition.
    Not to worry.

  9. "In view of a famous history of past failures which were highly touted at the time, does any sane person REALLY believe this is going to happen?"

    If this is a reference to the Harrigan Family's Shoal Bay development, yes, there is at least one New Yorker who believes it will happen. A True Believer, he is said to have put a deposit on one of the vapor-units, surely an admirable work of faith. He repeatedly posted construction start dates on the Anguilla Guide Forum, like someone predicting The Rapture.

    Alas, after his last annoucement, I think it was October 2009, he has abandoned these public declarations of faith after attacking a non-believer for questioning him.


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