by Shawn Cumberbatch
Government’s near $400 million fiscal adjustment is heavily dependent on its buying and reopening Almond Beach Village by the start of the next winter tourist season in December.
But Barbados TODAY investigations revealed the Freundel Stuart Administration is still to finalise how it will come up with the $129 million likely required to get the Heywoods, St. Property — the island’s largest hotel — refurbished and reopened within an ambitious three month deadline.
Indication of this came today on the heels of a statement from the Barbados Tourism Investment Incorporated that discussions were underway as Government sought an agreement to buy the Village.
Information indicated that a series of options, most of them dependent on funding from the National Insurance Scheme, were contemplated to come up with the needed funding. While $106 million is required to buy the hotel property and another $2 million to purchase the Almond brand name, more than $21 million has been budgeted to refurbish it.
And even if the funds are sourced to make the purchase, it is the time span within which the improvements are contemplated that will present a major challenge, especially since Government would ideally like the work completed by the time the next winter season starts, but definitely before it ends.
Barbados TODAY saw information showing there was a refurbishment to-do list of more than 30 items, most of them infrastructural.
Sources pointed out that prior to its closure more than a year ago the northern hotel needed improvements, something made even more critical now.
This was partly due to the fact that an assessment of the property showed room improvements alone, including replacing guest room furnishings, would cost $6.9 million.
The work Government would have to pay for and oversee within a three month deadline included: * Upgrading of 400 rooms, including new furnishings and fixtures ($3.7 million), new guest room furniture ($3.2 million), acid wash and retiling of guestrooms ($1.7 million), exterior hallway refurbishment including painting and replacement lighting ($720,000), laundry equipment ($600,000), Horizon Restaurant and pool ($500,000), extension of the conference centre and equipment ($500,000), improvements related to the Reef Restaurant ($480,000), bathrooms/dressing rooms ($450,000), construction of a warehouse ($420,000), centre courtyard ($400,000). Also included was the staff cafeteria ($360,000), Rachel’s disco ($350,000), new bar area ($350,000), sewage plant upgrade ($325,000), upgrade of gym and spa ($300,000), north pool and boardwalk ($300,000), 220 air condition units ($269,500), roof repairs ($240,000), golf club upgrade and equipment ($225,000), Kid’s Club ($200,000), beach and pool furniture ($170,000), general landscaping ($162,000), repairs to general roadways ($80,000), repairs to tennis courts ($58,000).
This was in addition to other funding for contingencies ($850,000), consultant fees ($750,000), and freight and duty (at least $750,000).
While Government is keen to buy Almond as part of the new growth and development strategy, it is still to conclude an agreement with Neal & Massy.
Over the weekend the BTII said buying the hotel was crucial noting that “the increased number of bed-nights will also go a long way in assisting Barbados to achieve a targeted five per cent increase in visitor arrivals for 2014”.
“Every effort is also being made to protect existing airlift into Barbados and indeed to grow overall capacity to ensure that Barbados has a good winter season and that 2014 represents a year of strong growth in arrivals and earnings,” it added.