The Hyatt Centric resort, a 15-storey hotel earmarked for the Barbadian capital is a go, said the government agency marketing Barbados abroad.
The new high-rise hotel will transform the skyline of the capital which has earned a UNESCO world heritage status – a selling point the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) plans to make in ramped-up advertising of the island as tourist destination.
“Hyatt hotel is slated to be constructed on Bay Street and it will be opened in 2020. Plans are continuing for that,” announced BTMI Chief Executive Officer William ‘Billy’ Griffith at a tourism conference here.
He also said he was banking on growth in visitor arrivals through various activities and renewed marketing of the island as a destination for “soft adventure”.
Griffith was giving an update and outlook for tourism in Barbados on Monday during the State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) 2018 being held here under the theme, Rejuvenate, Recreate, Reconnect – New Directions for Caribbean Tourism.
The planned $200 million investment hit a snag after it became the subject of controversy when social activist and lawyer David Comissiong opposed the decision by the then Freundel Stuart administration to grant permission for its construction without carrying out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and hosting town hall meetings.
When the high court dismissed Stuart’s challenge to Comissiong’s right to a judicial review, the then Prime Minister and Minister Responsible for Town Planning appealed the ruling, and a hearing is still pending.
With a new government in place, Comissiong has insisted that he still wants an EIA carried out.
One of the developers of the planned project was quoted recently as saying he was never opposed to carrying out the necessary studies.
Asked if he had any idea when the EIA would be done given his assertion that plans for the hotel were on stream for 2020, Griffith said “as far as I am aware the developers are making progress in terms of commencing the construction. I don’t have exact timelines but that is exactly what we have done in terms of what their target is”.
Nonetheless, Griffith said Barbados was on stream to increase its long-stay and cruise passenger arrivals in coming months through targeted marketing and campaign themes.
He explained that the focus would be on wellness and soft adventure.
“We think that Barbados has this really unique ability for lots of soft adventure activities . . . the east coast for example, I think hiking, biking, riding and walking, wind surfing – we are going to bring all of that to life next year,” said Griffith.
Barbados was promoted as a destination for culinary experiences this year, after being promoted for sports in 2017.
A stronger focus is also to be placed on marketing the island based on the listing of Bridgetown and its Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, he said.
“We have plans to really elevate that aspect of the element of Bridgetown, with the Parliament museum, the new Jewish Synagogue… plus what we want to do is to rejuvenate the city with respect to the cruise ship arrivals,” he added.
Griffith also told journalists here that between January and August this year long stay visitor arrivals reached 465,516, a 2.6 per cent increase over the same period last year.
There was a 6.8 per cent increase out of the US market; a 2.7 per cent increase from Canada, and three per cent increase from the UK, which remains the island’s number one source market. There was also a 2.4 per cent increase in visitor arrivals from other Caribbean markets, he said.
But on the downside, the island witnessed a heavy 28.2 per cent decline in visitor arrivals from the Central and South America market; a 5.8 per cent drop from Germany; an 11.7 per cent decline from Trinidad and Tobago and a one per cent drop from other European cities.
But Griffith said he was upbeat by the prospects of a turnaround in the Central and South America market due to the introduction of the twice-weekly Copa Airline flights between Bridgetown and Panama City since July.
As for visitor spend, which has been on the decline, Griffith said he was encouraged by Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) estimates of a 15.4 per cent increase for the first quarter of this year. This represents spending of $400 million between January and March this year.
The average daily spend per visitor amounted to $208.47 during the three-month period, up from the estimated US$183.55 during the January to March period last year, according to the CTO.