TOURISM MATTERS: Tough questions a must
It was very tempting to write on any subject this week other than the “Butcherisation” I received at the recent Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI) monthly luncheon, but that would have been the easy way out and certainly not in my character.
First, for the record, I had no intention of offending anyone. In fact, I made it abundantly clear in my opening remarks that many of us greatly admire Mr Gordon “Butch” Stewart and the hotel empire he has spearheaded.
I am not so remotely naive to believe that any one person can achieve this alone and a great part of the success is attracting the right people around you. This equally applies whether it is a small or large business.
Perhaps what surprises me more than anything is that a person who it appears has received everything he has asked for within weeks and possibly more than we are aware of, was
so unwilling to respond to legitimate concerns. Especially while so many who actually live on Barbados have toiled to build the destination’s tourism industry over several decades while being consistently denied similar extraordinary concessions.
Equally baffling were the number of people present at the event who, over the last months had, albeit in the shadows of anonymity, literally moaned about their inability to solicit business from Sandals Barbados, but were now cheering their new found “superhero”.
The temptation is to name and shame these people in this column, but they know who they are.
Are we really such a nation of hypocrites? It really takes me back to the story of Hotels and Resorts Ltd (GEMS), a subject that only I and the late Peter Morgan persistently criticised publicly. Of course, over this long saga there were prominent hoteliers in the background, but their frequent contributions via platforms like me, always carried the warning sign, “never mention my name”.
Perhaps if a few had been more vocal, the taxpayer would have been spared the squandering of hundreds of millions
of dollars, which could have helped to uplift or even transform the entire industry.
Seasoned journalist Patrick Hoyos questioned, in this publication, whether or not the BCCI forum was a suitable one to pose these questions. Probably not, but where else would there have been another opportunity to engage Mr Stewart?
Quoted at the meeting were seemingly impressive figures regarding Sandals local purchasing, but not a single reporter, either at the time or subsequently, sought to compare these amounts against the overall stated or projected turnover.
So let’s do it here. “$648 000 was spent on supplies from local manufacturers and farmers”.
Based on the quoted 85 per cent occupancy, two people per room with an average seven night stay, that’s a daily spend of $12.15 per person over the 16 weeks identified.
Bearing in mind the current lowest published room rate is over US$500 per night, are you still impressed?
My question regarding the level of value added tax (VAT) actually levied directly on guests can easily be verified by Government, as by now Sandals Barbados would have, by law, been required to file at least two VAT returns. Whether this is part of any ongoing due diligence and monitoring by the current administration, only time will tell.