Speightstown merchants, long suffering from declining sales and commercial activity in the northern town, have given mixed reactions to the news that another branch of Sandals Beaches Resort is set to be built at Heywoods, St Peter, within the next two years.
Representatives of the Jamaica-based all-inclusive resort chain have held two town hall meetings in recent weeks to inform residents and store-owners about their plans for the future of ‘Little Bristol’.
At the last town hall meeting, held at the St Peter Parish Church, townsfolk raised strong concerns about access to the nearby Heywoods beach.
And some retailers are doubtful of the rewards they will reap from an all-inclusive resort in which amenities, from food and beverage to tours and transport, are pre-paid to the hotel.
Critics have for decades suggested that the all-inclusive hotel model freezes local retailers and service providers of contact and sales while advocates hint about intensive employment potential for nearby residents.
Bar owner Tyrone White told Barbados TODAY reflect those critics’ concerns.
He said he had no issue with the international hotelier coming to the West Coast – once the local merchants were able to benefit to the influx of visitors that were expected to visit the historic town.
“I have no problem once it is not all-inclusive. All-inclusive kills business wherever it goes because the tourists just go and look around and go back to the hotel. When they go out there is a taxi waiting to take them to town and bring them back so the businesses in Speightstown don’t really benefit from them,” said White.
Another business owner who asked not to be identified said he was not fond of the project. He dismissed as “fraudulent”, frequent assurances from the Sandals representatives that all beaches will remain open to the public.
“They always come into your community and then they say they are not going to do this and they are not going to do that and then the black people they don’t have no rights,” he argued.
“Pretty soon . . . we that born over here, we aren’t going to be able to walk there,” the business owner contended.
More than 2, 000 people are expected to gain employment from the Heywoods, St Peter project.
The Barbados economy is expected to receive an injection of approximately $150 million per year from the $800 million resort.
Clement Anderson, owner of the popular Speightstown eatery, Fisherman’s Pub, welcomed necessary injection in the town that has frequently been described as dead or decaying.
“What Sandals is going to do is bring 2,000 people and employ 1,800,” declared Anderson who went on to disclose that visitors from the all-inclusive resorts and condominiums were quite often directed to the “white bars” in the district.
“You have like 30 people walking through Speightstown from the condominiums,” he added.
Anderson indicated that the longevity of his business was due to its popularity on the reputable tourist website Trip Advisor.
But one store owner, Nick Vieira of the Orange Street Grocer, sees the hotel as a positive development for the ailing town.
The new addition to the West Coast tourism belt was “long awaited” and “can only be beneficial to the people of Speightstown”, he told Barbados TODAY.
In business for eight years, Vieira contended that the hotel chain, Sandals Beaches, will invigorate business with 2,000 tourists expected to traverse the settlement and also contribute to protecting and enhancing the marine life.
“Sandals will help our beaches . . . . They are beneficial to this island and its potential growth as a marine destination [and] a dive destination,” he said.
“We are well on our way to being a very busy neighbourhood which retains its charm but has a lot to offer to both locals and tourists,” Vieira added.