Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley says he is closely monitoring the debate over the proposed construction of a Hyatt hotel here, as well as Barbados’ deficit economic position, which has come in for increased scrutiny in recent weeks amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
However, Barbados-born regional tourism boss Thursday refused to be drawn into the ongoing controversy surrounding both issues as he skilfully sidestepped reporters questions during a media conference at his Warrens, St Michael office, called to report on the Caribbean’s overall tourism performance.
With Prime Minister Freundel Stuart due to give the final go ahead for the project, all Riley would say when asked about Hyatt was that brand name hotels played a role in attracting visitors from some source markets, “particularly if you are talking about markets like the United States, which are major producers of business.
“We know that we are talking about markets that are very brand specific. So in any of our countries, if they are looking at brands then it gets our attention,” said Riley, who had earlier reported that the US market recorded a 3.5 per cent increase in long-stay visitors to the region last year.
Since the announcement of the planned $100 million Hyatt Centric Resort there have been several objections, with social activist David Comissiong promising to bring a lawsuit if an environmental impact assessment was not done, which would include widespread public input.
The Barbados National Trust had also cited environmental concerns.
However, the Chief Executive Officer of Terra Caribbean Andrew Mallalieu and some business owners in the area had already thrown their support behind the proposed 15-storey project. Chairperson of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Roseanne Myers also seemingly welcomed the Hyatt, saying it would add to the island’s business sector marketability.
In relation to the island’s economic performance, Riley said: “Clearly that is something we pay a great deal of attention to because . . . measuring the number of people that come to your country is one thing, but making sure that what we do is profitable and we get the maximum benefit for our people from this engine called tourism, that is something that we keep our eye on always.”