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Loveridge: Not a gem of a move

Marlon Madden

Loveridge: Not a gem of a move

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IT IS a complete fantasy for anyone to go and lease the Gems of Barbados hotel properties, let alone to buy them.
Long time hotelier Adrian Loveridge made this comment yesterday when responding to an advertisement in which the Gems of Barbados hotels are been offered for lease “on an individual or collective basis” with arrangements of “a purchase option”.
The GEMS hotels, which are a part of Government owned Hotels & Resorts Limited (HRL), are the Savannah Hotel, Blue Horizon Hotel and Time Out at the Gap.
“I don’t think they will get much response at all because if it were me, if I was even considering now purchasing a hotel property in Barbados, I would be looking for a successful trading hotel; one that is making money and has a good reputation or exactly the opposite, a fire sale property; something I could pick up cheap and then invest money into bringing it up to a marketable standard.
“So any hopes that Government has of selling the three properties at a premium price, I think would be a complete fantasy,” he told the WEEKEND?NATION.
In February last year, Dr David Estwick, who was Minister of Economic Affairs at the time, called on then Prime Minister David Thompson to sell the remaining three properties in the GEMS hotel group. 
HRL, the GEMS parent company, had benefited from Government loans of $145 million, but had an accumulated debt of over $229 million.
The outspoken hotelier said it was “the worst possible time” for anyone to think about selling any tourism property. He said the properties were therefore not marketable at this time since they were not “strong brand-names” and any sale would perhaps have to be “a fire sale”. 
“You have to look at the properties from a buyer’s perspective. Savannah Hotel is perhaps the only one close to being marketable. Time Out at the Gap and Blue Horizon are on the wrong side of the road. It is not as if you are buying prime ocean-front properties,” said Loveridge.
President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association Colin Jordan said he believed the Government’s timing of putting the properties up for lease with “a purchase option” was “a business decision”. 
“I can’t blame the Government’s approach. I think this Government is being consistent in doing what it said in the past. The Government had said the GEMS was a mistake [for them to have invested the kind of money they did] and they need to divest them. I think the idea of interest to lease with option to buy is kind of understandable due to the fact that people are not running around looking to purchase a whole lot of stuff nowadays,” he said.
Jordan, who is also director of business development at the Mango Bay hotel, told the WEEKEND NATION he did not see the location of the hotels and an attempt to divest the properties as an issue.Efforts to reach David Bowen, chairman of the Gems of Barbados, were unsuccessful up to Press time.