While promising “a set of concessions” to future investors in the tourism industry, Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds has made it clear that the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration will not be “blindly” giving away everything to any one entity.
Symmonds told parliamentary colleagues on Tuesday that following last month’s tourism investor conference several areas across the island were identified for development, including areas in St Michael, St Lucy and Christ Church.
“There has been tremendous expression of interests. We now have to go through the process of allowing those investors to come back to us with specific proposals and adjust their business cycles so as to fit in investment opportunities in Barbados, while at the same time we look to the way forward as we embrace them with a set of concessions that will fit neatly into that which we now do in Barbados for everybody else who are part and parcel of this country’s tourism product over the years,” said Symmonds.
“What we will not do is to go down the wicket like ‘blind Elda’ as the last administration did . . . or like ‘blind Sinckler’ and give away everything to one entity. That will not happen so as to cause chaos and disequilibrium in the sector. We have to use this opportunity to rethink and reconfigure what we call the awarding of concessions in Barbados so as to restore a sense of reality and a sense of fairness and a sense of a satisfactory way forward for the whole country,” he said.
Symmonds was making his contribution in the Lower House on the vesting of land to the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc, which will then be sold to Vision Developments Inc., developers of the planned Hyatt Centric property on Bay Street, St Michael.
The land being entrusted to the BTII for sale consists of two parcels – one measuring 742 square ft (69 sq metres) and the other 5,484 sq ft (509.5 sq metres).
“I associate myself with this resolution because of the fact it enables us to do a few important things in the area of Carlisle Bay,” said Symmonds.
Insisting that there would be no preferential treatment of the developers of the controversial Hyatt Centric, Symmonds made it clear that current and future developers would not get away with doing plans without a commitment to help uplift Barbados by way of “social or planning gains”.
“What we say to them is, you have to take the country along in the process. What we are saying is that if you want to have an opportunity to be an investor in Barbados in a project of significance in this country then the Town Planning permission is tied also to considerations of how the society benefits,” he explained.
“The fact of the matter is that what we must do is to find a way to tie a percentage of the investment to the uplifting of the social and economic fabric of this country,” he said.
In the debate, which was dotted with some back and forth between the Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley and other parliamentarians, lawmakers also referenced the Ross University’s investment and its contribution to the economy, but provided no update on the planned Beaches Barbados Resort earmarked for St Peter.
However, Symmonds made it clear that Barbados was determined not to allow tourism here to “go down the road of tourism in parts of the Northern Caribbean in particular, where they have bought into a “mass-based” product.
“I have seen it firsthand in Panama, in Jamaica, in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and I have seen the type of social decohesion that takes place – that there is a feeling that the tourism product is for ‘them’ but it has nothing to do with me,” he said.