Hoteliers and other tourism businesses who have lost “thousand of dollars” with the closure of sewage-plagued Worthing Beach over the past four months say they are hoping that the recurring sewage issue is fixed before the height of the tourist season.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY, most tourism operators declined to be identified, but said that since the beach has been closed they have struggled to stay in business.
“Right now, I am not getting any kind of money with bills coming. They say they are going to open it. I do not feel so good about it with the bills and everything coming in,” said a water sports operator.
“I would like [the beach] to reopen soon,” he said, adding that a meeting was held after the beach was closed but he has since received no update.
An operator of Tikkles Bar said that in the three weeks she has been employed at the bar she has noticed that business has been very slow.
“On some days there is nothing going on except if you have a friend or two that would just drop by and other than that there are no customers really,” she said, adding that she has seen no Government officials.
But at Crystal Waters Beach Bar, owner Sue Tryhane said that she believes that the Government is doing the best they can to fix the situation and that area business folk had meetings with Minister of Environment and Water Resource Management Wilfred Abrahams.
Since the beach’s closure Tryhane has lost 50 to 60 per cent of her business, forcing her to borrow from the bank in order to keep the business afloat, she said.
“I had to borrow money to get through because I did not want to lay off staff and we were hoping it would have opened by now,” she said, adding that she would like the entire community to be compensated.
“The guys on the beach that would have beach chairs also should be compensated,” Tryhane said.
“We would have spoken to the representatives and had a meeting with Minister Abrahams but there seems to be a problem with reopening as a piece of equipment needs to be fixed and we are crossing our fingers. I believe that they are doing the best that they can,” she told Barbados TODAY.
The manager of Chateau Blanc Apartments said that tourists and operators should be informed about the real issues surrounding the closure of the beach and the date of its reopening.
“I think a large part of the problem was the way it was reported in the media. Had [journalists] cared to explain expressions like raw sewage and explain to people the length of the coastline and the proportion of the coastline that was affected it would have certainly affected persons differently,” she said, adding that Barbados risks losing some of its tourist clientele due to them not effectively explaining the problem.
“The danger is you are not going to lose people only to the west coast. It is that you can lose people to other countries. Because they may not want to go Barbados at all. To me I think we needed to make a better effort at management for someone to really explain the situation.” In recent months the hotel has been forced to close its doors until the start of the winter season, she added.
“The guests that would come we decided to keep them for as long as we can. They have a young grandson who is coming on the 2nd [November] and from there everybody would go to another property,” she said.
The manager of the 16-room Worthing Beach Hotel said that the reason behind the hotel’s temporary closure was due to their location on the beach because they did not know when it was safe to allow their guests to venture into the waters.
“We do not know what days it is open and what days it is not. If the gate was opened yesterday if the water is clean today. It might look clean, but nobody is saying it is clean, it lasts for four hours, two hours.
“It does not have to be a sit-down. If you can say to people the gate is open you cannot go in the water for four hours that helps. Or we will employ a team and they will put down and take up the flags with better regularity…. We do not know, we just heard that the beach is closed officially. If it is safe and if it is not safe and so on because the guests do ask and we are unable to say anything,” she said, adding that the workers whom they had laid off from the establishment were still able to earn a living from their service charge as well as NIS for the two months the hotel would be closed.
“They go for NIS and it is only for two months. Even if they go on vacation or if they are on sick leave the service charge is still there. So, if they come to work or call for their cheque it is still there. Because of how NIS works they still would have benefitted from their winter earnings,” she said.
The manager, who wished to be unidentified, was skeptical that a meeting with Government would bear fruit. She told Barbados TODAY that in corresponding with her repeat visitors they all ask for official information to be aired so that they could be aware of the situation prior to planning their trip to Barbados.
“This is all we want from your Government information. I think that even though a lot of what happened was high-handed, I think it was necessary because of how things were handled before. It was not a knee-jerk reaction, it was an emergency measure. I think people understand that…. Just keep us abreast, not in the official PR way but just tell us what is happening because then you can go back to your guest and say x-y-z,” she said.
Minister of Energy and Water Resource Management Wilfred Abrahams said at a press conference on Friday that officials would seek to reopen Worthing Beach once water quality tests suggest the near-shore water was safe for bathers.