Hotel property worth at least $200 million and accounting for more than 880 rooms are what Barbados’ tourism industry is having to do without as the sector looks to rebound from a more than five per cent dip in stay-over visitors last year.
In recent months, officials have rejoiced that 225 rooms previously unavailable have been re-added to Barbados hotel room stock – Almond Beach Village (135 rooms), SoCo Hotel (24 rooms), and Infinity On The Beach (66 rooms) – but significantly more beds and properties remain closed and unbought.
BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY sought to quantify just what has been missing in terms of hotel rooms, and our list is neither scientific nor exhaustive.
In the past two decades hotels have come and gone and, as one tourism official pointed out, while this is so, many of them have been replaced by villas and condominiums, which have added to the tourism accommodation infrastructure in their own way.
That said, concern remains about the reduced number of hotel rooms in Barbados, with some historic, others previously popular and a few of the newer variety among those closed.
The list includes several which are now for sale, such as Caribbee Hotel and lands (55 rooms/$22 million), Coral Sands Hotel (36 rooms/$22 million), Silver Sands Hotel (130 rooms/$46 million), Tropical Escape (58 rooms/$20 million), Villa Nova (28 rooms/$24 million), Sandy Bay Beach Club (130 rooms/$22 million).
This was in addition to Sunhaven Beach Hotel (40 rooms/$6 million), Lighthouse Resort (69 rooms/$9.5 million), and Sandy Ground Hotel (11 rooms/$4.6 million). Different types of circumstances have also meant that other properties, including Sam Lord’s Castle, Edgewater Hotel, and Allamanda Beach Hotel, also remain off the market.
Respected hotelier Ralph Taylor is the head of SoCo Hotel, which is the former Sierra Beach Apartments. The former Barbados Tourism Authority chairman is among those concerned about the reduced number of hotel rooms here, especially when compared with other leading tourism destinations in the region.
In a recent analysis on the issue, he said: “Barbados was doing okay with hotels but there was a lot of stuff that still needed to be fixed. Now, Barbados lags behind its neighbours, including Jamaica. In 1980 Jamaica had 10 000 hotel rooms and today Jamaica has 30 000 hotel rooms, Cuba had 7 226 hotel rooms in 1980 and today it has 57 000 hotel rooms, St Lucia had 1 245 hotel rooms in 1980 today it has 4 900 hotel rooms.
In Barbados in 1980 we had 6 680 hotel rooms, today we have 5 400.
“The average growth in these countries between 1980 and to date is 486 per cent, compared to a decline in Barbados of 20 per cent, and therein lies one of our major challenges. We were not and are still not getting new hotel development. We must ask ourselves why we are not getting this development.”
A main reason, he believes, is that “investors are looking firstly for adequate returns on capital and then all other factors to consider”.
“In other words, when people are looking to invest their money, they want to know ‘what is the return, what kind of cash are we going to get on this money?’ If that’s good, then they look further [to] the considerations of human resources, the ability to exit investments, the work environment, and ease of doing business. All other factors are considered, but if there is no return on your capital the issue goes out the window,” he said.
In recent years the Central Bank of Barbados has done some tourism-related studies, including one on the pros and cons of condo and villa development versus traditional hotels.
With the likes of well known all-inclusive company Sandals and its sister brand Beaches set to develop major properties here in the next few years, officials are banking on a revival in the Barbados hotel trade.