A major investment conference is to be held in early April to examine how to pump millions of new cash into aging hotels and other properties for tourism, Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds has told Parliament.
His ministry was the first to go under scrutiny under a new system of committee hearings instead of the traditional debate of the Government’s Estimates of spending and revenue for the new financial year, which begans on April 1.
He made the revelation while responding to concerns expressed by Member of Parliament Wilfred Abrahams over the apparent abandonment of Silver Sands Hotel in his Christ Church East riding.
Symmonds said: “The fact of the matter is, [Silver Sands Hotel] is one of the properties which we would confidently hope we can attract investment in by way of the proposed investment conference which we would want to have held within the first couple of weeks in the month of April.”
But he noted that number of other tourism-related properties along the south coast were ripe for investors.
The tourism minister said: “It is not only Silver Sands Hotel. You go further along the south coast… to the very back of the airport next door to Paragon . . . down the hill from Paragon; you have about a 38-acre expanse taking you right down to the beach, which is also ripe for investment; and the owners and I have discussed that matter as well.”
Symmonds told the Chamber that Silver Sands Hotel’s acreage and capacity were greatly under-utilised, even though it was a fully-functional hotel.
“It is a far larger property in terms of its potential use than currently is representative when you look at the footprint of the existing or pre-existing hotel,” said the minister.
He said Government has to take 12 other properties into consideration beginning at Savannah on the south coast, stretching along Bay Street, Carlisle car park and ending at Trevor’s Way next to the Bridgetown Port.
“There are about 12 potential properties which are ripe and ready for investment. For too long . . . . I think this is really the message . . . this country sat on those investment opportunities without doing enough to energize and to jumpstart redevelopment of that part of the hotel sector,” he contended.
Symmonds also said that hotel room stock in Barbados had fallen to the detriment of the industry.
Symmonds said: “While there has been thriving investment across the Eastern Caribbean with whom we compete and the northern Caribbean with whom we compete, we have not in Barbados had that same level of development of our hotel room accommodation; and it is a matter which concerns me and concerns the ministry, both of Tourism and Economic Affairs, Finance and Investment.”
The minister said he is hoping the investment conference would help jumpstart some of these properties.