Normally a tranquil location, the secluded area of Anse Canelles in Micoud was a flurry of activity on Wednesday morning as the official groundbreaking ceremony of the Saint Lucia Canelles Resort got underway. Developed by the Galaxy Group, the resort will be managed by AMResorts, a subsidiary of industry giants Apple Leisure Group. Zoetry and Dreams will be the two brands. In attendance on Wednesday were representatives of the developers, government ministers and residents of the surrounding communities.
Following brief opening remarks, the MC Russell Lake welcomed on stage Mr. Jiang Tang, Vice President of Galaxy Group. Looking ahead to the expected completion in 2-3 years, Tang assured that the property, minutes away from Hewanorra International Airport, will provide a quality visitor experience and elevate the surrounding communities by providing employment and backward linkages. “Most of all,” said Tang, “it marks the beginning of what my company hopes will be a long and mutually fruitful relationship.” Tang praised the government and AMResorts, without whom, he said, the ambitious project would not be possible.
Mr. Fernando Fernandez, Vice President Development of Apple Leisure Group, promised the gathering that the island would become better known over the world as a result of the project. He said: “It’s very easy to come here and say we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that,but it’s a different thing to really make it happen. But I’m sure that with the support of everybody involved we’re going to make it happen.”
International Trade and Investment Minister Bradley Felix shared the developers’ enthusiasm. What was about to unfold, he said, was only a small step in the government’s master plan for the nation. He said the goal is to create an island that all Saint Lucians —resident and abroad— will be proud of. “While the government continues to ensure that we preserve the serene beauty of Fair Helen,” said Felix, “we must not be hypocritical about the fact that we have a growing community of young people seeking employment opportunities. We must therefore ensure a delicate balance of development alongside our heritage.”
Felix said the developers of the CIP-approved project were rigorously screened and that they have a proven track record within the region and internationally. Pointing to the tourism sector—the biggest driver of Saint Lucia’s economy—he lamented that not all communities have reaped the rewards, Micoud for one. Felix promised this unfair situation will soon change, as the Canelles project creates hundreds of new jobs, from entry to management level.
“For the ambitious and enterprising Micoud and other residents,” Felix promised opportunities are on the horizon! Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee also welcomed the project and heaped praise on Natalie John, a Saint Lucian residing in St. Kitts and Nevis. He said it was she who had connected the Galaxy Group and Saint Lucian authorities. The minister thanked her for her “extraordinary commitment to country”.
In the day’s main address Prime Minister Allen Chastanet recalled that there had been numerous attempts at developing the Canelles area but they had never reached fruition. The prime minister outlined several measures he said will be taken in the project’s development, among them: the establishment of an on-site nursery; no wholesale land clearance; construction commencing in the dry season to reduce sedimentation; and no building of coastal structures.
He assured that coastal access for fishers, sea-moss harvesters and others will remain unimpeded. Invest Saint Lucia and the developers will work with horse-riding operators to forge linkages. Chastanet revisited his campaign for office in 2016: “We said we were going to do it exactly how Bradley said—in a very responsible way.” He said he was proud to have this development at a time when the island recently recorded over 400,000 stay-over arrivals for the first time; Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corporation will develop the Vieux Fort port; there is an approval in principle for a pre-clearance facility for US citizens; and there are plans for the Switzerland-based Lausanne University to open a local campus.
The prime minister also stated that the CIP would play a significant role, not in the hotel development, but in the Canelles Oceanfront Apartments—the project’s real estate aspect. After the event, the STAR caught up with the CEO of the Citizenship by Investment Unit, Mr. Nestor Alfred, who considered the day “a momentous occasion” for his board and staff.