RON IN COMMON: Sandals good for Barbados
JUST OVER A YEAR AGO, Sandals Barbados Resort & Spa started operations.
A year earlier, we could not but hear the noise, all the hurrah about the presence here of the region’s most successful hotel chain operating here.
The Freundel Stuart administration and more so his Minister of Tourism and the de facto deputy Prime Minister Richard Sealy as well as Minister of Finance , Chris Sinckler had been given a proper public flogging. The charge was that they had given Sandals too many concessions.
No one with ears to hear and eyes to read could forget the hollering and uproar over those concessions. The family silver, the bread and the cheese with all the ham was being given away. Those who understood along with those who did not understand, all joined in the talk, some spewing facts, others only talking crap. However, it came to pass that Sandals Barbados became a reality.
An eye-catching property at Dover, Christ Church eventually showed the proof that Butch and his team would deliver. Lo and beyond, in less than six months after its opening , Adam Stewart, scion to Butch’s kingdom announced plans for a multi-million dollar expansion at property; at least 186 news rooms being built.
From the very onset, it proved to be a different type of operation to what we were accustomed to in Barbados. The Sandal group was not interested only in the traditional winter tourism focus – October to April- with the other months being left to be a hit or miss. Rather, the aim was for an all-year product offer, which is good news for all workers and contractors.
Given the number of people who went to the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre when the job recruitment sessions were held, it was obvious that thousands of Barbadians were not interested in any academic debate or rum shop talk about the pros and cons of the concessions. People were on the hunt for a job, one offering year round steady employment with a leading brand name hotel. About 600 people ended up being happy.
Well many others have now gained from the concessions and John Public and Lady Goodlooks as well as the supporters and detractors are all looking to see what major improvement in plant, additional jobs and other benefits will accrue.
For those on the sidelines simply watching, the reality is that Sandals Barbados became a reality without a private beach even if there was or still is some controversy about the work being done on the beach. Understandably, some people feel that something sinister was happening, while the hotel’s operators maintain it was all about securing the beachhead. Taxi operators, farmers and a host of other producers have welcomed the arrival of Sandals, since it has ensured a steady berry, or as some would say a regular piece of bread for them.
Even for the doubting Thomases the success of the 280 room Sandals Resort property cannot be ignored. So, even if reluctantly, and even if they are issues with the union, we can all still state categorically, that Sandals has brought some good rewards for the national economy and for many individuals.
But there have been benefits which many of those who spoke about the concessions should be well aware the country has gained from this international brand being here. Unfortunately, they are others, many others, who don’t understand the spin off benefits. They can’t cackle because the hens and cocks which they follow have a little too much grain in their craw.
But don’t lose focus. The reality is that Sandals has been giving Barbados brand exposure across North America and Europe with its advertising campaigns.
This was very evident recently by the number of whole page advertisements in the North American print media. Take the Miami Herald newspaper which promoted the Sandals brand just before Christmas. It clearly spoke of Jamaica, Antigua, St Lucia, Bahamas, Grenada, Barbados and Turks &Caicos. The cost of a whole page advertisement in the Sunday Miami Herald does not come cheap and a guess is that it runs well over US$10 000 even with a standing contractual agreement.
Now, just imaging that Sandals is running similar whole page advertisements across other major publications in United States and Canada as well. Then there are the commercials on television and the billboards all appealing to people to come stay at one of its properties in the Caribbean.
What Sandals is spending on advertising, it is unlikely the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. or any other hotel, barring Hilton International, can or will match. Butch Stewart and his team need to have the rooms filled most of the year and are determined to get the people here from the source markets. The major industry players are also on board whether Virgin Holidays, Air Canada, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Kuoni and Westjet vacations among others.
It is the kind of news and support Barbados needs. So, here’s to the brand name hotels. All Barbadians must deliver the best quality service to ensure the visitors are not just happy with a hotel suite, but in love with all Barbados. (ES)