The former chairman of the now defunct Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), Adrian Elcock, says despite the swirling controversy, he believes the proposed US$100 million Hyatt Centric Resort would be a good development for the island.
However, he believes there’s a delicate balance that has to be struck between increased tourism investment and protecting this island’s heritage.
Elcock’s comments come against the backdrop of robust debate over the 15-storey luxury property that is due to be built within the heritage site on Bay Street, The City.
While tourism operatives have been touting the benefits of such a development, it has run into strong objection from social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong who has threatened to take legal action to stop the hotel if the project is not subjected to a comprehensive environmental impact assessment. Comissiong, along with officials of the Barbados National Trust (BNT), are contending that the hotel will have negative implications for the environmental well being of the City of Bridgetown and its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In fact, the Trust, which is represented on the Barbados World Heritage Committee, fears that Barbados could lose its crucial World Heritage designation for the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison and put it on the “danger list”.
Amid the ongoing debate, Elcock sees the need for relevant authorities to discuss “what is a sensitive development for the Hyatt”.
“Does it need to be 15 storeys? Does it need to be ten storeys?” he asked, pointing out that while “the developers will need to know what they need to get their return on their investment . . . our authorities [will] need to protect our heritage, so to find that balance needs some dialogue”.
Elcock, whose three-year tenure at the helm of the now defunct BTA came to an end in August 2014 after he supervised its absorption into the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority, said it was important for the island to attract more international brands, such as Hyatt.
“That could be the beginning of re-energizing Bridgetown to give it the energy it needs,” he said, adding that the opportunities in terms of real estate development, housing, commerce, retail, restaurants, were manifold.
He emphasized that having a well-known hotel brand, which is familiar to travellers, particularly from the United States, would provide a tremendous boost for the sector.
“As we grow the US market, especially with over 20 flights a week on JetBlue, American brands would become even more important to complement the Hilton and the Radisson brands which are already holding their own on the market,” said Elcock, who described the current state of the island’s bread and butter tourism industry as both “exciting and promising”.
He was also full of praise for the efforts of the BTMI to bring airlift to the country, saying they have been “extraordinary”.
“I think we have some good airlift lined up for the winter season and it is exciting to know that people coming to Barbados will get a chance to see all the beauty that Barbados has to offer.
“Of course those people need someplace to stay and its great to see that the private sector is stepping in and doing developments,” added Elcock, who is involved in several private business enterprises.