The redevelopment of Sam Lord’s Castle into a hotel carrying the Wyndham brand is expected to be ready for business toward the end of 2020, almost a year behind schedule, Parliament was told today.
But Government funding for the project has been cut from the initial $30 million, according to the 2019/2020 Estimates.
The hotel resort was scheduled to be completed this winter, but Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc, Stuart Layne, revealed today that there are two major obstacles in completing one of the blocks of close to 200 rooms.
Layne, who did not elaborate, told this to the newly-established standing finance committee of the House of Assembly. He is among the first technocrats to appear alongside ministers to answer questions from lawmakers under revised rules of the lower chamber for the annual appropriations debate.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds had asked Layne to update the House on the Sam Lord’s project in response to a request from Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley.
Stuart said: “The project itself is 450-room hotel to five-diamond specifications. It is a Wyndham brand. In other words, the Wyndham brand would be responsible for managing the property.”
He said the funding was provided by Government in its Estimates through a $170 million loan from the Bank of China.
But the BTII chief executive noted that the estimated cost of the overall project is $200 million with Government to provide counterpart funding.
In response to the Opposition Leader’s other request to know the amount of money owed to landowners whose properties were compulsorily acquired by Government to facilitate the project, Layne could not give a figure.
Layne told the House: “In relation to the issue of land, yes, there is an outstanding amount. The land was compulsorily acquired by the Government and there is a balance which I don’t have with me since it is calculated daily; but there is some outstanding balance still to be paid on the land.”
But this answer did not satisfy the Opposition Leader.
During her time asking questions, Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle revealed that the capital spending of $30 million in the Estimates was to be slashed by almost half.
She said Government was willing to have a “marginal contribution” in some projects in order to prove to investors they were viable.
“The $30 million that is seen here as allocated to Sam Lords Castle, which is to be officially reduced in these Estimates to $18 million, and the reason it is to be reduced to $18 million is because of this Government’s intention to sell it on as been reference earlier,” said Caddle, who indicated that Government was keen on being more of a facilitator.
She told fellow lawmakers that so far US$42 million has been drawn down from the Exim Bank of China “with another US$9 million pending”.