Yet another attempt is being made to revive the stalled Four Seasons Resort and Private Residences project at Clearwater Bay, and this time it is likely to succeed, according to Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy.
Sealy broached the subject this morning while discussing investments in hotel projects here, at the groundbreaking ceremony of Sandals Barbados’ US$180 million expansion project.
The minister revealed little about the fresh efforts to breathe life into the ill-fated Four Seasons project, but he hinted that a possible solution was in the works.
“I know that a lot of ink is spilt and a lot of noise over the airwaves about Hyatt, for example, in Bridgetown, Wyndham at the Sam Lords Castle site, and of course Sandals on this site, and Beaches. We are told that the Four Seasons project is coming to some sort of conclusion,” Sealy said.
Work on the 110-room Four Seasons hotel and 35 private villas on the site of the former Paradise Beach Hotel, ground to a halt in 2009 after the original developers ran out of money.
The project began running into difficulties in late 2008 as more than half of the villas, priced at $11 million to $18 million apiece, remained unsold and buyers who had made deposits of between ten per cent and 40 per cent stopped making additional payments.
Among the prominent buyers which the villas attracted were composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan and Simon Cowell, whose villa spanned two plots and cost $32 million, and whose link to the project was mentioned in the recently leaked Panama Papers.
After two previous attempts by the developers to secure new financing had failed, the then David Thompson-led Government announced in January 2010 it would guarantee a $60 million loan from ANSA Merchant Bank to help restart construction. Some of the money was to go toward paying off a previous $31.5 million loan from the Bank of Scotland used to buy the resort’s 32-acre site.
“I am pleased to support an initiative where Barbadians pull together to put an iconic project back on track–one that will help shape the future of tourism in Barbados,” Thompson, who died later that year, said at the time.
The project became even more uncertain last year when the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) withdrew its support, cancelling $160 million in loans it had committed to the venture more than two years earlier.
The IDB, which had agreed to fund construction of the hotel component, made the decision due to concerns about the lack of progress.
Today, Sealy admitted that as a result of the global economic crisis Government had struggled since 2008 to attract new investment and product development in the industry, but said the tide was beginning to turn.
In addition to Four Seasons, the minister said he was also looking forward to another highly anticipated hotel project – Beaches Resort in St Peter.
When Sandals bought the ten-acre Couples Barbados property in 2013, its chairman Gordon Butch Stewart promised to build a new Beaches Resort on the site of the former Almond Beach Resort, for which Government had struggled to find a buyer.
In his address today, Sealy took note of the November 30, 2017 deadline which Sandals Resort International (SRI) set for completion of the expansion of the Dover Beach, Christ Church Sandals Barbados.
He also made reference to the date by which construction of the Beaches Resorts would be completed.
“When Sandals makes deadline they do tend to meet them and I look forward to seeing that similar energy of course with respect to the St Peter project when we move up to the Beaches. I don’t think that one can be finished by 2018 [although] that would be nice for me since we have a day of reckoning during the course of that year. But we will take this one and at least a start on the other one,” Sealy said, while making reference to the next general election.
Stewart today confirmed that work was set to begin on the new Beaches Resort, but declined to give details, beyond making it clear that SRI was still in the planning stages.
“We need to get this rolling along. A lot of planning has been done for Beaches . . . . The Beaches is now heavily in the planning stage,” Stewart said, pointing out that initially he came to Barbados to build only about 400 rooms but that was on course to be doubled.