More than $30 million will be spent this year on refurbishment and upgrade of hotels to help improve their competitiveness, according to Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Rudy Grant.
However, Grant said the hoteliers’ ability to compete was still being stifled by the absence of dozens more items from the list of products for concession under the amended Tourism Development Act (TDA).
Addressing the first quarterly general meeting of the BHTA on Wednesday at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Grant said it was the concessions provided through the TDA that had “given impetus” to the BHTA members to upgrade and refurbish their properties.
He said while tourism officials were grateful for the concessions on alcoholic beverages and protein, they were in need of concessions for other items that would allow the upgraded properties to be more globally competitive, earning higher average daily rates.
“To date, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, along with proteins, have been approved for these exemptions. This has certainly been beneficial for our members, but it is fundamentally important that the other items identified be approved swiftly. The inability to add 49 items which were submitted in November 2016, inhibits the further competitiveness of our hotels,” Grant complained.
“Tourism competitiveness can be evaluated in part by assessing the appeal of Barbados as a tourism destination. Upgrades, refurbishments and renovations of our hotel plant enhance our competitiveness. These also assist in improving guest satisfaction, increasing room revenues and offering fashionable modern rooms,” he said.
Among the properties to undergo renovations and upgrades this year are South Gap and Yellow Bird Hotels, Cobblers Cove Hotel, Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Discovery Bay, Sugar Cane Club, The Club Barbados, Accra Beach hotel, Bougainvillea Beach Resort, Beach View and Little Arches.
However, perhaps the most significant investments in terms of dollar figure will come from Sea Breeze, which is set to invest an estimated $14 million; the Elegant Group ($10.2 million); and Divi Southwinds ($6 million).
Delivering his administrative report, Grant also pointed to changes on the cards for Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) that are expected to improve the product, as well as the visitor experience.
“Excessively long delays, extremely long queues and an unwelcoming environment is not the first impression we should provide for our visitors,” Grant said in an apparent reference to Immigration and Customs at GAIA.
The hotel executive said through discussions with the Ministry of Tourism, airport operator GAIA Inc, the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority, the BHTA was assured that critical changes would be made.
Those changes, Grant said, included the addition of 16 automated passport control kiosks in the arrivals terminal to be used initially by Caribbean Community nationals, including Barbadians; the introduction of scanners in the customs area in the arrivals terminal; the reintroduction of sniffer dogs in the arrivals terminal; the removal of immigration at departure; and the removal of a portion of the wall in the arrivals terminal.
“The Government officials have informed that these measures are aimed at improving the visitors’ experience at the GAIA Inc. The realization of these measures would prove to be beneficial to both Barbadians and visitors,” Grant said.