Fourteen years after the historic Sam Lord’s Castle Hotel closed its doors to business, and seven years following its destruction by fire, construction of the much delayed US$200 million Wyndham Grand Resort in St Philip is due to begin on Friday.
Chief Executive Officer of the state-owned Barbados Tourism Investment Incorporated (BTII) Stuart Layne revealed to Barbados TODAY Tuesday morning that work on the 450-room facility would begin on schedule, nine months after the old burnt out historic buildings were demolished to make way for the project.
“Friday is when we start action up there this week, 31st. We are stuck within the March time frame,” Layne said.
The plans for the project on the 58-acre property were approved since 2008, with construction initially earmarked to begin towards the middle of 2015. Several delays later, Layne had told Barbados TODAY in early January that it would finally get under way by the end of the first quarter of 2017.
The project is being financed by China, with the China National Complete Plant Import Export Corporation as the main contractor.
The Wyndham resort is one of a series of tourism-related development projects on which the Freundel Stuart administration is relying to spur economic growth, increase employment and restore foreign exchange reserves.
Layne said the project would create up to 1,000 temporary jobs during construction, and would employ a similar number upon completion.
“As we build up in terms of capacity, 700 Barbadians will be employed there. [But] when it reaches the peak in construction, it would probably employ a thousand persons, but when it is permanently open, it will employ again, permanently, up to a thousand persons,” the BTII senior official said.
The tourism investment executive said while the new property will be built to the highest international standards associated with the Wyndham brand, what is left of the castle – a local heritage building – would be retained and restored.
“The castle will remain. It is not much left outside of the castle, but the castle is part of our heritage and will be protected,” he explained.
With the summer tourist season normally slow, Layne said the new hotel would be designed to attract summer travellers, but accommodate tourists who travel at anytime of the year.
It is for this reason that the hotel will have large conference facilities, including 20,000 square feet of convention space to attract the meetings, incentives, conferences and events market, he said.
“We are looking at a product that will sell well in summer. Normally hotel products in Barbados are built for the winter, then we struggle a bit in the summer. This product is a summer product that can sell in the winter,” Layne pointed out.
In addition, the Wyndham will go after the family market, as well as the weddings and honeymoons and spa business, he disclosed.
“What we are doing basically is ensuring that all of the segments of the market represent summer business that we have targeted. Usually winter is going to be fine – people come here because of climatic conditions elsewhere. So we have intentionally targeted the types of traffic, demographically . . . the segments of the market that travels in the summer.”
The project was initially expected to be completed in early 2018. However, Layne did not reveal a new completion date.