The head of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association has linked record tourist arrivals to the emergence of Sandals hotel resorts here.
BHTA chairman Stephen Austin made the declaration to returning guests at the Sandals Reunion Week at the couples-only, all-inclusive resort’s Dover, Christ Church location on Tuesday.
He reported an increase in the number of visitor arrivals from Barbados’ main source markets.
Said Austin: “The preliminary arrivals in Barbados from January to March 2019 showed an increase in visitors of 2.9 per cent, which represent 5,971 more visitors compared with last year. This increase can be mainly identified with increased visitors from the UK of 11.7 per cent, Germany 8.7 per cent and the US by 4.7 per cent.
“I do believe that Sandals Barbados and Sandals Royal Barbados have contributed to this increase in visitor arrivals. I also believe that you the awardees have contributed to the increase arrivals and to the success of our little rock we call Barbados.”
During the 1970’s-themed event, some 141 couples were recognised – some with special mention – for spending 25, 45, 70, 100 or more than 250 nights at Sandals properties across the Caribbean.
Austin called on the awardees to become ambassadors and share their stories with friends, colleagues and family.
The BHTA official praised Sandals Resorts International, operators of the Sandals and Beaches brands, for excellence in customer service, dedication, teamwork and guest satisfaction.
“We at the BHTA remain committed to working with Sandals and all of our partners to make Barbados competitive in today’s unstable global economic climate.
“The Sandals model reassures us all that value for money is vital towards maintaining a sustainable tourist industry. Sandals has become one of the most well-known award winning hospitality brands in the world.
“I believe that the economy of Barbados and the overall brand of destination Barbados benefits enormously from the success of Sandals Barbados and Sandals Royal Barbados.”
General Manager of Sandals Barbados and Sandals Royal Barbados Ramel Sobrino said the combined 552-room properties have been running an average occupancy level of 97 per cent between November 2018 and April 2019, and that forward bookings were looking healthy.
“Forecasts for the upcoming months are very high as well,” Sobrino said. “So for months like October and September we already have a view of high occupancy, which is unbelievable and beneficial for all of us team members. The numbers that we see going on is just spectacular.”
He attributed the high occupancy levels to high standards and good customer service displayed by team members and the reputation of the destination itself.
He said since the opening of the first Sandals property in January 2015 it has increased its employment numbers to
Pledging the hotel’s continued commitment to developing the island’s tourism offering, Sobrino said Sandals did not see the current economic situation as an obstacle, adding that he was confident Government would soon be able to put the economy back on a growth path.
“I see a lot of light…. I see a lot of interest so I am pretty sure we are going in the right direction,” he said.
The hotelier said he was especially encouraged by the investment being pumped into education, infrastructure and renewable energy, adding that they were sure to produce benefits in the future.
“And for us with the numbers we have… this occupancy level that you see, together with the team members working together over here with contractors, is a high impact for the economy, and we try to consume as much as we can, under every possibility, what the country produces,” added Sobrino.
Asked if plans for the Beaches Barbados project were still on the cards, Sobrino declined to comment, only saying: “I believe it would be wonderful for the destination as a whole and for us as a company (and) I (am) really excited that maybe we will be able to offer this absolutely unbelievable product.
“I (am) really looking forward to this becoming a reality for everyone.”
The Beaches property, which has been earmarked for the old Almond Bay resort at Heywoods, St Peter, has been thrown into doubt when Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that the hotel officials were seeking an extension to elaborate tax concessions that would effectively bind future Parliaments of Barbados.
While not saying if the $840 million project would be cancelled, a Sandals official had indicated that they were “fully committed to supporting and working alongside all stakeholders for the future growth and development of the island”.