Local hoteliers can now breathe a sigh of relief as they seek to access concessions under the Tourism Development Act.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced on Friday that her administration would be creating a “level playing field” across the industry, allowing hoteliers to access the concessions the same way in which Sandals was accessing them.
“We have determined that we don’t ever view Barbados as a country that departs from the rule of law and that we accept that those contractual obligations we made are those which we continue to abide by,” Mottley said at a brief site visit ceremony at the Heywoods, St Peter property earmarked for the US$400 million Sandals Beaches Resort.
“We want to allow as many hotels as our physical circumstance allows to enjoy the exact benefits that you [Sandals] currently enjoy. Whether that takes six months, eight months or 18 or 24 months, we feel that it is important from a values perspective to have a level playing field,” she said.
Following the granting of extensive concessions to the international hotel chain, Sandals, which began operations here in 2013 at the former Almond Casuarina Hotel in Dover, Christ Church, a number of local hoteliers and industry officials had complained bitterly that they were being placed at a disadvantage.
They said there was too much red tape whenever they tried to access the concessions.
Prime Minister Mottley described the current set up as “unfair and unfortunate”, adding that as the country emerged from its economic turmoil she recognized that one of the goals “must be to create that fair and transparent environment”.
“Immediately I can say that for those persons in the Barbados hotel sector who now currently have to go every two to three weeks to get a renewal from the Ministry of Tourism I have indicated to the Minister of Tourism that is unacceptable and that they should equally be allowed the same benefit that Sandals has now,” she said.
At the same time, Mottley suggested that there was no backing down from asking the tourism sector to play a part in Barbados’ economic recovery process.
She said the country could not afford to not have the sector carry some of the burden given that the country was now emerging from the most awful and difficult economic circumstances.
She welcomed the planned Sandals
Beaches development earmarked for the old Almond property in Speightstown, promising that her administration would ensure that all approvals were in place so the project could get off the ground by its planned January 2019 date.
Chairman of Sandals Resort International (SRI), Gordon Butch Stewart said he hoped the US$400 million property,which will be the single largest investment in its chain to date, would play a major role in helping the Barbados economy to recover.
Stewart gave the assurance that the project, which should last about 27 months and employ about 1,800 throughout the process, would employ Barbadians.
He said he was confident the Beaches property, which will consist of about 600 bedrooms, would play a major role in attracting more airlines and more visitors to the island.
The world-class, state-of-the-art facility will have a number of unmatched amenities including a zip line, a six-lane bowling alley, numerous water slides and an on property train, making this hotel the largest in the hotel’s chain.
Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds could not immediately say how soon the changes would be made for all hoteliers to automatically access the concessions under the Tourism Development Act, but indicated it was definitely a priority he would be working to iron out “before the winter season sets in”.