EDITORIAL: Keep Almond brand
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it. – Maya Angelou
THESE WORDS OF THE LATE noted American writer and poet no doubt were penned to offer comfort and encouragement to individuals in difficult times, but in our estimation they can be applied to commercial entities and even countries. Certainly when we consider the current situation at Almond Beach Village in St Peter, they appear to have much merit.
This property, with its highly positive brand recognition, particularly in the European market, has gone through more than its fair share of turmoil in recent years – and that situation had resulted no doubt in major hardship for the hundreds who depended on it for a living.
When its principally Trinidadian owners determined it was time to cut their losses and closed the complex in 2012, there was a huge hue and cry over the decision and all its implications, including the immediate loss of jobs, the disappearance of commercial opportunities for businesses and individuals who supplied goods and services, the general impact on businesses in Speightstown, the loss of airline seats out of Europe and the reduction in hotel rooms available to the country.
Despite this, however, a number of Barbadian operators in the hospitality sector expressed interest in taking over Almond, even as its former guests, many of them repeat visitors, cried out for the reopening of the property. They saw themselves as loyal to the Almond brand.
What transpired since then, as they say, is history. Jamaican hotel magnate Gordon “Butch” Stewart won Government’s approval to buy the property and replace it with one of his signature Beaches Resort ventures, while Barbadian hotel ace Bernie Weatherhead was given the nod to operate the existing property until Stewart is ready to start construction.
Now Barbados is benefiting in a major way because Weatherhead has chosen not to behave like a “night watchman” in a cricket game. He, with the help of the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc., worked with Almond as though their lives depended on it. Now it is clear that Weatherhead’s approach and Almond’s loyal customers have given new life to the property.
It is recording 100 per cent occupancy with its 168 rooms; is employing 230 Barbadians; providing a major commercial injection to Speightstown – and on top of that is planning to recommission an additional 50 plus rooms. Without doubt, the revival of Almond Beach Village has been very good for Barbados, and Weatherhead has demonstrated undoubtedly that Barbadian hoteliers can deliver.
We support Government’s decision in relation to Beaches Resort and the Heywoods, St Peter property. Stewart and Beaches will be great for the north of the island and even better for Barbados generally.
But the Almond brand should not be allowed to die, and neither should Weatherhead’s success go unrecognised. Government, if it is not doing it already, should start planning for the continuity of Almond at some other location, and it would appear there is no better person at this time to lead the charge at a new Almond than Bernie Weatherhead. He deserves no less.