BE OUR GUEST: Sandals over Almond
My loyalty to Barbados and the people of Barbados has no bounds.
My track record is transparent. I have many hard-working Bajan friends who share my feelings about our country and its people who are busting their brains to find ways to get our rock out of this recession.
Bernie Weatherhead is one of them.
I have admired his work and continuous investment to expand his business enterprises in Barbados.
I attended the reopening function of the failed Almond resort in St Peter and I listened carefully to what he said and what our Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy said in their speeches. I commend Bernie for what he has achieved but I feel obliged to sacrifice my friendship with Bernie in favour of my loyalty to Barbados if I am forced to choose.
Barbados needs the power of the marketing juggernaut and the quality of the Sandals/Beaches brands in the United States market especially, to put Barbados back up there as the most desirable destination in the Caribbean. And in my view, Barbados has to send a clear message to the world that when we commit to a business agreement we abide by our commitment.
I heard Bernie’s plea to Government to hand over the failed Almond resort to him for him to develop it and I heard him say how strong the Almond brand is in the marketplace. Well, having lost over $5 million as a result of investing in the Almond brand, I feel obliged to disagree and speak the truth. Comparing the Almond Brand to the Sandals and Beaches Brands is like comparing me at 71 in my old Terrapin race car with Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes F1 race car driving at the Top Gear festival at Bushy Park.
There simply is no comparison between the ability of the two to attract droves of big-spending tourists to Barbados.
Almond may be able to attract tourists by offering cut rate prices but Sandals/Beaches will raise the quality of the resort and achieve far better room rates. Sandals will provide better opportunities for the training of Barbadians simply because of the size and financial muscle of the brand.
Ancillary services providers will benefit far more from a Beaches resort there simply because the people who book a Beaches vacation for their family are wealthier. And can afford to spend more to enjoy what Barbados has to offer.
I can say this because I know many St Lucians who have been providing ancillary services to Sandals resorts there for over 15 years and Sandals business has kept their companies busy and profitable continuously.
I sincerely hope that our Minister of Tourism, backed by his colleagues in Government, will not waver in his commitment to have a brilliant new Beaches resort on the site in St Peter.
Ralph “Bizzy” Williams is an investor and executive chairman of Williams Industries.