Thousands of new jobs are to be created this year and investors are expected to spend $1.5 billion on hotel properties, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy revealed today.
Sealy said at a press conference this morning, called to discuss the tourism sector’s performance in 2015 and projections for this year, that 4,500 permanent jobs will be generated as a result of several new projects and the rejuvenation of some old properties.
He said he expected “2016 to be significantly enhanced” by the opening of the 138-room all-inclusive Sugar Bay Hotel – formerly Amarylis Beach Resort – which went through a $10 million refurbishment, as well as the Sands – formerly Sandy Bay – which was purchased by a group led by Peter Odle, the owner of Mango Bay Hotel.
“That is supposed to be on stream in time for winter,” revealed Sealy.
The Minister of Tourism added that Sandals was also expected to spend US$200 million on an additional 220 rooms – expanding the current property to 500 rooms – and would employ another 600 workers.
“They currently employ 600 persons, so they will employ 1,200 people at the Sandals property. They are also preparing to break ground on the former Almond Beach Village property. That will be branded as the Sandals Beaches . . . a family resort; and we expect US$200 million to be spent there and 1,000 people to see employment,” Sealy revealed.
He added that work would commence on Sam Lord’s Castle by Wyndham by the second quarter of this year, which will add 450 rooms to the hotel stock, while the 130-room Carlisle Bay Hyatt would cost US$100 million.
“So we figure once we can complete, that’s about $1.5 billion Barbados in investment; we can create 4,500 jobs and of course visitor receipts will go up by over US$500 million.”
With Barbados’ tourism registering record highs last year, Sealy said the sector contributed $133 million to the island’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015, an increase of six per cent.
In an apparent response to Opposition Barbados Labour Party hopeful Colin Jordan who contended last week that length of stay and tourism spend were down, the minister presented statistics that showed that since 2007 there had been little change to the number of days that visitors spend on their holidays here.
“Now there is a new record year, they talk about spend; we understand that gamesmanship. But I just need to explode one myth and the suggestion that 2015 has seen people staying shorter. That’s not true. The trend analysis that we have done shows that people are not staying shorter,” he said.
To emphasize the point that the industry had “soared to a new milestone in 2015”, the minister pointed out that the performance of the largest hotel group and the single largest property – the Elegant Group and the Hilton Barbados Resort – reflected the viability of the sector.
He disclosed that the Elegant Group made $22 million in profits last year while the state-owned Hilton had its best performance since its refurbishment with returns of $13.9 million.
“If your largest hotel group is having a record year and your largest property on the island are both having record years, it is an absurdity to suggest that the sector is not viable, that people are not earning,” Sealy told his audience which included the media and top tourism officials in the private and public sectors.
He added that the Barbados Tourism Product Authority was currently working on ways to extract more money out of visitors by developing new products, including plans to turn the former Glendairy Prison into a tourist attraction.
Sealy revealed that while the United Kingdom continued to be the leading source market for Barbados, contributing 36.8 per cent of all arrivals and registering 14.1 per cent growth last year compared to 2014, the United States registered the largest growth, with arrivals climbing by 25 per cent to 148 165 visitors.
The 74, 512 visitors who came from Canada represented a 5.8 per cent increase, while regionally increases of 5.8 per cent were recorded for Trinidad and Tobago and 13.1 per cent for other Caribbean countries.