The regional hotel resort empire Sandals has given the struggling Barbados economy a resounding vote of confidence, while it expands its footprint in the tourism market.
In a message delivered by Sandals Resorts International’s Senior Vice President of Sales Gary Sadler, Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart said he was pleased with the work the new administration had done so far in three months in office.
Acknowledging that there was still a lot of work to be done to save the ailing economy, Stewart, through Sadler gave the assurance that Sandals was prepared to work “shoulder to shoulder” with Barbados “to help you achieve a brighter and more prosperous future”.
The Sandals executive was addressing the Sandals Global Sales Conference at the Sandals Royal Barbados property on Friday, where more than 200 of the company’s sales and marketing team from around the world came together to share experiences and brainstorm.
“While Sandals may be just one hotel group, we fully intend to pull our weight to help bring about stability and success we all want to see for Barbados,” he told the audience, which included the guest speaker Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
“We have every cause for optimism, madame Prime Minister, and we look forward to working alongside your Government to achieve positive gains for Barbados,” he said, adding that “it is a very exciting time” and “we believe in the promise of growth that the tourism sector holds”.
The Sandals VP said since the construction of the first Sandals property over three years ago there has been a noticeable increase in tourism business for Barbados especially from the North American market, and he expected that increase to continue as the brand expands further.
Sadler highlighted the ongoing development of the Sandals Royal property, where an additional 50 suites were being built and due to open in November, and the planned construction of the Sandals Beaches property in St Peter.
“It should be noted that we raise all the capital and we carry all the risk for these investments. In other words, we’re putting our own money behind it. I believe that sends a most powerful message, and I can think of no greater way to telegraph to the world’s investing community the confidence we have in Barbados,” he said.
There are currently some 1,200 workers at the two Sandals properties in Christ Church, and officials have promised to increase the number to just under 3,000 when the Beaches property is St Peter is completed.
The expansion of the prominent hotel chain in Barbados “also spells good news for local suppliers and producers” since the hotel had made it a priority to buy local first, Sadler declared.
“That means more opportunities for farmers, taxi drivers, tour operators, artisans, manufacturers and local suppliers,” he added.
Thanking the international hotel chain for its confidence in Barbados despite the economic challenges and for its work in helping the country to have the highest repeat visitor rate, the Prime Minister insisted that the work ahead in turning the economy around would require even stronger partnerships.
“If each of us now, on our part, live up to our end of the bargain to make your experience here, to make your communication of your experience, to make our story inspire you in your own country as to what is possible, if we can do that we will not have enough space like Sandals to accommodate those who want to come,” Mottley told the room of Sandals employees.
Her administration had already determined that if the country was to survive and transform “we have to do things a little differently. We have to all up our game”, she said.
“We have determined therefore that as we seek to transform our country, because we are in a moment of transformation . . . it is not about returning to where we are but it is about becoming the best of who we can possibly become,” she said, adding that her administration had inherited “some very difficult circumstances” with a debt of about $15 billion.
Insisting that Government could not do it alone, Mottley said “what we need is each and everyone who believes in what we are doing, and we believe that Sandals believes in what we are doing”.
Asking the Sandals team members to reflect on whether they wanted to join the journey to economic recovery by choice, Mottley said she was looking forward to the construction of the expected US$450 million Beaches resort over the next two-and-a-half years.
“Our survival and success as a nation depends on these partnerships,” said Mottley.
“I say to Barbadians all the time, many hands will make light work, when many hands make light work then hopefully success will come to us all”. (MM)