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Hit BBC reality business series The Apprentice makes Caribbean return with its opening episode’s tasks set in Antigua

Mick the Ram

Jan 6, 2023

Antigua and Barbuda has received some fantastic tourist publicity right across the UK, thanks to one of the BBC’s most popular reality programmes, which returned for a 17th series on Thursday evening (5 January).

The Apprentice, which sees a group of 18 aspiring entrepreneurs, compete against each other for the winning prize of a £250,000 investment in a business creation of their own making, but just as importantly, a 50% partnership with Lord Alan Sugar, one of Britain’s most successful businessmen, and all his mentoring skills and vast contacts.

Throughout the series Lord Sugar sets the candidates, who are split into two separate teams, a set of tasks for which he monitors their strengths and weaknesses in leadership, sales, negotiating, strategies, teamwork, organisation, and planning.

He is ably assisted by two trusted lieutenants, who follow the groups around, observing and referencing individual performances – good and bad – and reporting their findings back, which are revealed in the climax of each episode, when everyone is called into the boardroom and at least one person is “fired” every week.

Excursions thrown together

For the opening of the new series the nine men and nine women are flown to the Caribbean island, with a remit to create and sell excursions to tourists. To be fair these people usually have no experience in the tasks they undertake, and what is more, they are thrown in at the deep end, with in this instance, just two days to first of all put everything together and make the sales on day one, and then deliver the product (the excursion) on day two.

Boys verses girls

The winner would be the team who made the most money, with the obvious threat of part or full refunds being demanded for sub-standard and unsatisfactory production. The teams were split into boys verses girls, with the lads opting to go down the history route with Nelson’s Dockyard heavily featured, as well as some rum tasting at Shirley Heights; whilst the ladies chose a catamaran trip, with snorkelling in the crystal waters and a visit to Cedars Pottery, and an opportunity to paint some ceramics thrown in.

Project Manager’s in tactical firing line

The candidates are similar every year in so much that many have come from privileged backgrounds and as a consequence, have received a financial leg up already, and as such are very often found wanting when it comes to common sense. Prior to each task a Project Manager is elected to lead the rest of the team and delegate roles and responsibilities.

These people are immediately in the firing line because they automatically face the axe if they are in charge of the losing team, along with two other members, who Lord Sugar asks them to nominate, so tactics are also very much at play more or less from the off. 

Antigua shown off in much of its glory

The hour long show spent around 40 minutes showing off the beauty of Antigua and certainly will have done no harm. As well as the above mentioned attractions, there was also features or exposure to the glorious beaches, the magnificent harbour, and the all around friendly nature of the islanders.

ABTA looking to capitalise on exposure

The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) were delighted to welcome the team from the famous broadcasting organisation, with a clear hope that the air time will lead to increased visitor numbers as the peak holiday booking season approaches.

It most certainly will not have done it any harm and may have thrust the twin-island nation to the front of many people’s minds as they consider their destinations for later in the year.

The Minister of Tourism and Investment Charles Fernandez was extremely positive in his belief that   the effect the show would have on the number of travellers looking for somewhere different. “This is a huge promotion to start off the year and is the momentum that we will continue to build on as we promote Antigua and Barbuda throughout 2023”, were his enthusiastic comments ahead of the show going out; whilst clarifying that as many as 65 crew members and contributors stayed at the Royalton Antigua, for the shooting of the show last April.

It was success for the boys

With regards to the result of the first episode, it was success to the boys. Neither side covered themselves in glory, with both failing to make the most of lucrative opportunities. It was online antique business owner Gregory Ebbs who saved the day for the lads, rescuing his PM Joseph Phillips who was stumbling badly when trying to answer questions at Nelson’s Dockyard.

Gregory stepped in with some fascinating facts that he had researched over the previous 24 hours, to the delight of the 16 guests on their tour, and proving himself to be an early favourite for the competition. His intervention meant that no refunds were sought, which meant their takings beat those of the girls.

Disruptive influence pays heavy price

After a grilling by Lord Sugar, their PM, Victoria Gouldbourne, brought back into the boardroom Marnie Swindells, a court advocate who she had appointed sub-team leader, and account executive Emma Brown, who after some deliberation and consultation with his side-kicks, Lord Sugar “fired”.

She could consider herself a little unfortunate, as she had said all along that the best place to sell tickets would be at the harbour, but was overruled and the beach was chosen, which proved to be a calamitous decision with the team only able to shift twelve of the sixteen tickets.

Her downfall however, was that she caused endless bickering amongst the group by constantly harping back to that judgement, instead of pressing ahead and looking for solutions and as a consequence, was seen as being a disruptive influence, for which she paid the price, especially when the two other girls sided against her.

Last year all four contestants in the final were women, so not a great start for the ladies.

Thankfully not part of actual excursion teams

As for Antigua Tourism, no doubt they will be grateful for the candidates visit, and the subsequent exposure to a wide audience that they brought the island; but also very relieved that none of them will be part of any guide team for their many genuine excursions… Gregory excluded.

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