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EDITORIAL: Sandals’ Almond deal great news

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Sandals’ Almond deal great news

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Very welcome news for all Barbadians.
That is the best way to describe the report in yesterday’s SUNDAY SUN that there is a buyer for the Almond property at Heywoods, St Peter. In a period of national economic challenges, this foreign direct investment is important for many reasons.
It speaks to confidence in the Barbados market by the region’s largest and most successful hotel group, Sandals Resorts International. With the all-inclusive Sandals all set to open its expanded and upgraded facility on the South Coast by yearend, a property at Heywoods would be the prize in its Barbados operations.
The US$53 million expenditure is important because it will bring in much needed foreign exchange and safeguard what was a contentious investment by the National Insurance Board. It will not be a profit-making venture for the Freundel Stuart Government but it will most certainly save it from the disgrace that many had predicted the Heywoods project would have been.
An important spin-off as a result of this new venture to be undertaken by Sandals will be the marketing of the island. Of particular interest will be the additional airlift that should be enticed to our shores. Unlike most of our other hotels, Sandals undertakes extensive marketing of its properties, not being heavily dependent on Government’s marketing agencies. We should gain particularly from the source markets in North America and Europe.
Then there will be the jobs, both direct and indirect, which should be created as a result of this project. We can only hope plans for the redevelopment of the property do not run into any unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. Critical employment opportunities will come during the construction stage which we expect must benefit our manufacturers and builders. Our skilled and certified employees should have additional opportunities for permanent jobs on completion of the property. In our unionised environment, it should also allow for new partnerships.
A desolate Speightstown should also be a beneficiary of the eventual redevelopment of the Heywoods facility while other investors may be encouraged to look at other tourism related projects in that area. With the neighbouring marinas to the north and some other projects to the south, the entire area has properties which are well suited to the island’s profile.
Mr Gordon “Butch” Stewart came in for severe criticism when he received a number of concessions from the Stuart administration when Sandals first signed off on its investments in this island. The reality is that concessions to attract and keep businesses are a norm internationally.
Mr Stewart and his company are not in business for any altruistic reason and their investment must bring returns. This is a win-win situation for Mr Stewart and Barbados.