Construction work on the stalled controversial Hyatt project in The City is to begin in a matter of weeks, says Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy.
Delivering the weekly Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Astor B Watts lunchtime lecture at the party’s George Street headquarters, Sealy made no reference to ongoing litigation that has literally stopped the project, but he assured that with planning approval already given, work on the downtown hotel was about to resume.
“Construction is expected to commence, as I understand it, in another couple of weeks, and that too will give us 220-rooms and employ 250 people on completion,” a confident Sealy said, whiled declining to give details.
The $200 million project, a vital part of Government’s plan for economic recovery, has been the subject of a court case for the past several months, with attorney-at-law David Comissiong challenging Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s decision to give the go ahead for the proposed project.
Following a marathon three days of legal arguments last month from all sides involved, it was left up to High Court Judge Sonia Richards to give her ruling.
Comissiong wants a judicial review of the permission granted to developer Mark Maloney to build the multi-storey hotel on Bay Street, The City.
Stuart, who is the Minister responsible for Town and Country Planning, is fighting back against that challenge, contending that the social activist did not have either a financial or legal leg on which to stand in the matter.
With no clear indication of when a legal judgment would be issued in the matter, Sealy seemed positive that the ruling would support a go ahead of the hotel project.
Besides the Hyatt Centric, the minister of tourism also said there were several ongoing and pending investments in the vital sector that would significantly increase employment, as well as the island’s hotel room stock.
He singled out the 220-suite Sandals Casuarina property, which is to open this year, providing about 600 jobs; the opening of the 250-room Sands Hotel in 2018 providing about 300 jobs; the addition of rooms at the Sea Breeze hotel, as well as the opening of the 450-room Wyndham Sam Lords hotel in 2019, providing about 1,000 jobs.
“Of course we also have the owners of the Accra Hotel planning to do a 44-room hotel on Miami Beach and they are hoping for that to be operational by 2018,” he said while acknowledging that “they had some Town & Country [Planning] matter they are trying to resolve involving the community there and we wish them luck.
“We also have a number of other projects to commence constructing during the course of 2020,” he said, while singling out the planned 500-suite Sandals Beaches in St Peter, as well as the planned 309-room Pure Beach Resort in Foul Bay, St Philip.
Sealy said he was satisfied that as a result of the added room stock the tourism industry would outperform recent records.
He said the total construction to take place from now to 2020 would result in about 2,300 new rooms, providing “a needed boost and modernization to the tourism industry in Barbados”.
“It will build out the capacity that is needed for sustained growth, not only for the industry but for the economy as a whole, as tourism final product is dependent on all the sectors of the economy and likewise, these sectors also depend on tourism,” he said, while stating that he was especially happy for the local investment in the sector, which he said was as a result of concessions under the Tourism Development Act.
“Twenty-three hundred rooms would increase our room inventory by over 40 per cent, and it is estimated that by 2020 we would have 800,000 long stay tourists coming to Barbados and the revenue would move from US$1.1 billion to US$1.5 billion,” said Sealy, who is also expecting record numbers of cruise passengers.