When major hotel projects in the pipeline eventually come on stream, as many as 14,000 jobs could be created, driving the level of unemployment back down into single digits.
In addition, policymakers believe the room stock should reach 9,000 to 10,000 to accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors coming to Barbados.
Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy made those observations Sunday afternoon as he addressed the monthly meeting of the St Philip South constituency branch of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) at the branch office in Belair, St Philip.
He told the audience that the number of hotel beds had fallen from 6,600 in 1980, to 5,000 in 2008, the year that the DLP came to office.
But citing statistics to bear out his argument that the local tourism industry was doing well, Sealy said Barbados welcomed 592,000 visitors in 2015, and that number increased to 613,000 in 2016, with a five per cent increase projected for this year.
He said the hundreds of jobs provided through the Sandals and Sam Lord’s Castle projects, for example, did not account for the employment that would be created for other Barbadians indirectly.
“The multiplier effect is such that it creates other work. These include the suppliers, the self-employed people….For example, on the left side of the road in front of the Crane Hotel there is a whole set of businesses that have sprung up because of the Crane Development. These are not people working directly in tourism, but they are the indirect beneficiaries – a day nursery and a hair dressing salon and a couple of food places. All of that related to visitors staying at the Crane Hotel. There are added opportunities cascading through the economy,” Sealy said.
“These are the type of jobs we want. We do not need any more jobs that will increase the cost to Government. We don’t want people simply going on the government payroll. That is the dangerous type of scenario where you have government expenditure ballooning out of control. You want the jobs in tourism because those jobs are based on foreign exchange earnings.”
Speaking at a location that is a couple hundred metres away from Sam Lord’s Castle, Sealy pointed out that the investment of US$230 million made it the largest real estate project ever undertaken in Barbados.
Describing the Sam Lord’s project as the crown jewel in the strategy, Sealy noted that the focus on expanding had to be on areas other than the south and west coasts.
“The reality is there is not a whole lot we can do with the south coast and the west coast in terms of new build. We can go in and refurbish existing plants, but if you are talking about new build, you have to speak about the north of the island . . . the south east where we have a couple of strong tourism products and history,” he said.
The St Michael South Central MP said Carlisle Bay in the City is another area that the Ministry of Tourism can focus on building out.
According to Sealy, the Hyatt project earmarked for that area will be a catalyst for other players who own real estate in that vicinity to get involved in tourism and create jobs for people.
“I am a huge supporter of Hyatt and I believe most people in Barbados and St Michael are. For too long, the people of St Michael have been spectators where tourism is concerned. Tourism was mostly a Christ Church thing and a St James thing. For too long, we have had to look and see the people of St Philip enjoy the benefits of Sam Lord’s Castle and the Crane. The people of St James and St Peter enjoy the Gold Coast.
“Here it is, we have arguably the best beach in the island – Browne’ s Beach – and we cannot get a piece of the action. I do not accept that tourism coming to Carlisle Bay would be at the expense of locals using that beach,” he said, referring to concerns raised by those opposed to the development.
The construction of the 15-storey Hyatt Hotel on Bay Street is facing a legal challenge mounted by social activist and attorney–at-law David Comissiong.