Parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner has defended Government’s move to compulsorily acquire the abandoned Sam Lord’s Castle property in the wake of concerns raised about the acquisition.
As she opened debate on the resolution to take over the Long Bay, St Philip property and convert it into a 450-room five-star resort at a cost of US$200 million, Sandiford-Garner said she was confident “this is the right move for the Government at this time”.
The Government senator was adamant that the acquisition also makes financial sense, explaining that the resort was projected to generate at least $73.4 million yearly and employ more than 900 people.
“The national revenue, which includes all of the peripheral services will be $73 million, but the total revenue of the hotel is US$48 million. So we’re looking at a gap of about $30 something million, which will be shared between transport, entertainers, souvenirs, vendors and other persons who will retain whatever items that tourists wish to buy,” she explained.
“We’re looking at NIS [National Insurance Scheme] contributions from the 900 workers who will find employment at the facility and then there are other taxes from transactions that will take place from the establishment of that Sam Lord’s Castle facility. [Based on] these initial estimates we are sure the property would generate adequate revenue to service our debt payment of US$14.2 million and our operating expenses,” she said.
Government also anticipates it would collect $2.6 million from rental of commercial spaces on the site, with conference facilities generating another US$1 million yearly.
However, several people have criticised the Freundel Stuart administration’s plan to redevelop the property, including president of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association Sunil Chatrani, who contended that the sector was in need of quality and not a greater quantity of hotel rooms.
There have also been concerns about battles being waged in the law courts over the property and the implications for Barbados.
While Sandiford-Garner did not speak to those issues, she was confident the resort would exceed the minimum benchmarks projected, including the 80 per cent occupancy rate in the winter season, and 60 per cent in the summer.
“Even with these modest estimates, this redevelopment project will be self-sustaining and will [bring] generous financial benefits for this country as well as the hotel operator who takes it over,” the senator said.
The Upper Chamber was debating the resolution up to late this evening.