by Emmanuel Joseph
With tourism business already down significantly during the first half of this year, some operators on the West Coast who depend on the tourist dollar for survival, are blaming construction of the Holetown Beachfront Improvement Project for making matters worse.
The project, which is being spearheaded by Government’s Coastal Zone Management Unit and built by C.O. Williams Construction, started in October last year. Coastal Zone Project Engineer, Rachell Worrell, told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, the venture, which runs from Heron Bay, St. James to Church Point in the area of Folkestone, in the same parish, entails a stone and sand walkway joined by a concrete walk structure. The 425 metre long “boardwalk-type” concept, is expected to be finished around November this year.
Surfside Restaurant, located on the beach side of Holetown, is one of the businesses “suffering” from a “significant” fall off in patronage which has been attributed to major ongoing construction work related to the project. “Since April or May when this (construction) started, I have lost a lot of business. It is ridiculous; and nobody is going to compensate you,” bemoaned partner in Surfside Restaurant, Avaline Henry.
“Business here has never been so bad. We know that during the [tourism] season things are usually bad in May and June, but then pick up in July. But nothing has picked up yet and it’s almost the end of July,” declared Henry, whose husband had been operating the restaurant for the past 25 years.
Pointing to the beach where large trucks and excavators were working, she lamented that patrons, essentially tourists, would normally be dining near the beach or relaxing.
“When people come here (to the restaurant) and hear all the noise from the trucks and see the big trucks and heavy equipment digging up the beach, they ran away. There is nowhere for anybody to sit any more,” added the retired public servant.
“Even the woman who rents chairs on the beach can’t do anymore business. She asked me to keep the chairs for her. Look at the chairs there stacked up. The woman has not been able to come to work for the past three months while this construction was going on,” Henry noted.
She told this newspaper, they have had to operate short hours at the restaurant by opening late a closing earlier than normal.
“It is not profitable to keep this restaurant open. We have had to use our personal income to survive in this business. I can’t continue to use my gratuity in this business. We have 20 workers employed here,” she said, identifying one who has been working there for the past 20 years.
“Locals don’t really come here. We mainly get visitors. Cruise ship visitors would come and lay on the beach; but they don’t come anymore because there is no beach,” added the restaurant operator.
jet ski, glass bottom boat and sailing boat operators along with a beachside clothing entrepreneur, have all blamed the ongoing work for contributing to a falloff in business. They complained that the tourism business was already bad, but the dislocation caused by the construction, was not helping them.
While a team from this newspaper was on the scene this afternoon, glass bottom boat operators Marvin Sobers, Artifus Cumberbatch and Mark Jackman were tied up, with no work coming the way of sail boat owner, Morris Blenman.
However, the Barbados TODAY team observed jet ski operator, Andrew Worrell, getting business.
Responding to claims that the construction had been responsible for a worsening of business along the Holetown coastal stretch, Project Engineer Rachell Worrell urged business owners to be patient as it would benefit everyone in the end. email@example.com