My loyalty to Barbados and the people of Barbados has no bounds. My track record is transparent. I have many hard-working Bajan friends who share my feelings about our country and its people who are busting their brains to find ways to get our rock out of this recession. “Bernie” Weatherhead is one of them. I have admired his work and continuous investment to expand his business enterprises in Barbados. To demonstrate, we recently placed most of Williams Industries Insurance business with his Sun General company. I shop at his I’mart and Hallmark stores. I attended the reopening function of the failed Almond Resort in St Peter and I listened carefully to what he said and what our Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy said in their speeches. I commend “Bernie” for what he has achieved.
I have not invested one cent in Sandals. I have no reason whatsoever to be biased one way or another, but I feel obliged to sacrifice my friendship with Bernie in favour of my loyalty to Barbados if I am forced to choose. Barbados needs the power of the marketing juggernaut and the quality of the Sandals / Beaches brands in the US market especially, to put Barbados back up there as the most desirable destination in the Caribbean. And in my view, Barbados has to send a clear message to the world that when we commit to a business agreement we abide by our commitment.
I heard Bernie’s plea to Government to hand over the failed Almond Resort to him for him to develop it and I heard him say how strong the Almond brand is in the market place. Well, having lost over $5 million as a result of investing in the Almond Brand, I feel obliged to disagree and speak the truth. Comparing the Almond brand to the Sandals and Beaches brands is like comparing me at 71 driving my old Terrapin race car with Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes F1 race car that he is bringing to the Top Gear Festival at Bushy Park.
There simply is no comparison between the ability of the two to attract droves of big-spending tourists to Barbados. Almond may be able to attract tourists by offering cut rate prices, but Sandals/Beaches will raise the quality of the resort and achieve far better room rates. Sandals will provide better opportunities for the training of Barbadians simply because of the size and financial muscle of the brand.
Ancillary services providers will benefit far more from a Beaches resort there, simply because the people who book a Beaches vacation for their family are wealthier and can afford to spend more to enjoy what Barbados has to offer. I can say this because I know many St Lucians who have been providing ancillary services to Sandals resorts there for over 15 years and Sandals business has kept their companies busy and profitable continuously.
As I write this I am thinking of all the opportunities that the Sandals/Beaches brands will create for entrepreneurs in Barbados and I know that Mr Stewart will not make the mistake of trying to do the ancillary business in Barbados without including Bajan tour providers across the board. He is not stupid. He knows he needs to share the benefits of having his brands in Barbados to be successful here.
I sincerely hope that our Minister of Tourism, backed by his colleagues in Government, will not waver in his commitment to have a brilliant new Beaches resort on the site in St Peter. Minister Sealy did make that absolutely clear in his speech but I feel so strongly about this that I simply had to share my view.
– Bizzy Williams