EDITORIAL: Keeping Almond hope alive
Gordon “Butch” Stewart’s confirmation that he is interested in taking over Almond Beach Village must have lifted the hearts of that beleagured hotel’s 500 plus employees facing loss of jobs – if indeed the debt-burdened entity closes its doors at monthend.
We share the concern of these loyal Almond Village workers.
But as Sir Roy Trotman, general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, and Colin Jordan, president of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, have indicated, the closure of Almond Village will also be a tremendous economic blow to Barbados at large, causing severe social dislocation.
It is our hope some deal can be brokered to keep the doors of this 32-acre property open as its contribution to tourism, and the economy at large, is crucial.
In the acute anxiety – following the announcement by Neal & Massy’s Gervase Warner last Tuesday that the Heywoods, St Peter hotel would be closed by monthend – it seemed immediate good news to hear that Mr Stewart, the Jamaican hotel magnate, had a definite interest in purchasing the sprawling beachfront resort.
The prospect of a quick sale and some refurbishment, ensuring continued functioning of a vital “platinum coast” entity, throws some light onto a very dark situation. But there is a very sensitive question Barbadians will have to answer.
Is Barbadian society ready to welcome the private beach attraction that characterizes Mr Stewart’s successful Sandals brand and other resorts in neighbouring tourism destinations?
“We love Barbados and we would love to be in Barbados from a Sandals perspective,” Stewart was quoted as saying earlier this week.
But though he had stressed over a decade ago that his plans for another Sandals at Paradise Beach, the home of the stalled Four Seasons Resort, did not include a private beach, those who would have travelled and seen the brand in other countries would know that while the beaches are not officially private, access is extremely prohibitive.
Barbadians are sensitive about beach access. The very question of locals losing the right to enjoy the island’s beaches was at the root of the recent controversy over a proposed tourism development at the Skeete’s Bay-Culpepper area in St Philip.
It is therefore important that those involved in any future sale of Almond Beach Village, private sector and Government, stress this vexing issue of proper beach access – not a dark and lonely track – so as not to create a later national problem while attempting to solve the urgent and immediate one.