A local businessman has called on Government to get its priorities in order as he expressed strong opposition to the Freundel Stuart administration’s decision to redevelop Sam Lord’s Castle.
Robert Pitcher told Barbados TODAY that instead of investing $200 million in that project, as announced by Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy in Parliament on Tuesday, Government should first fill the 9,000 hotel rooms that are currently empty.
While agreeing that renovating the St Phillip property and marketing it as a historic treasure are good moves, Pitcher said the timing was off.
Speaking at his office in Rendevous, Christ Church this afternoon, the director of Fun ‘N Sun Publishing said: “Do you think it is wise, at this point, to pick up $200 million to invest in Sam Lord’s Castle when we can’t even fill the current rooms that we have? At the end of the day it is still a great idea because the history of Sam Lord’s is well known, not only in Barbados but the outside world, and we need to revive it [though] not necessarily at this point in time when the Government has no money.”
“We can put it on the back burner, not discard it . . . . But advertise this country in the right way so that those beds that we are looking at can be filled first before we talk about building more rooms. When we can look at the industry to see how the beds are being filled, when we can fulfill our present bed capacity then we can look to spend money to get Sam Lord’s Castle back again. Right now it makes no financial sense,” Pitcher added.
In his opinion what should be a priority for tourism, is the teaching of foreign languages such as Mandarin and Portuguese in schools.
He has called on the Minister of Education Ronald Jones and Minister of Tourism to join forces to ensure that becomes a reality.
With an estimated 100 million Chinese expected to visit the Caribbean in the next ten years, Pitcher said proper planning to maximize on their presence must be made from now.
“That 100 million Chinese will come to the Caribbean to spend over $300 billion. We are not teaching any Mandarin in schools. We’ve got to put that on the curriculum. Barbados is currently spending money in Brazil – the Portuguese market – and we [aren’t teaching] Portuguese. We need to for the future generations who are supposed to be trained well within the industry to be able to speak these two languages in addition to near perfect English and not ‘Bajan’,” he said.
“These are the things that the ministries have got to look forward to . . . as well as cleaning up the streets . . . . You can’t talk about tourism for people to come and see your country in that sort of state. Whenever they go back they must be able to tell people that they saw the very best and not to tell people they saw the very worst.