Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds has advised the hotel umbrella brand, Intimate Hotels of Barbados, that it cannot compete against the bigger brands if each hotel operates individually.
In a speech to Intimate’s Annual General Meeting at Sweetfield Manor, Brittons Hill his afternoon, Symmonds urged the group of hotel owners to band together.
The Minister said he was aware of several challenges being faced by the smaller hotels, including the rise of all-inclusive hotels and a drastic change in the US market.
Symmonds said the Intimate Hotels’ 49 properties which provide 1075 rooms, were not on equal footing with the rest of the hotel industry.
“The very fact of the matter is that in terms of your ability to capitalise yourselves and to recapitalise yourselves and to flesh out an operational approach which allows you to do tearing down of rooms and retrofitting and refurbishment on a cyclical basis of a seven-year cycle, so that you are constantly renewing your plant and being on the cutting edge of a new product, I know that the Intimate Group is severely challenged and cannot stand on equal footing with many of your larger competitors.”
He said their marketing budgets and pocketing capacity on an individual basis paled in comparison to larger competitors.
Symmonds also described the relationship between the Intimate Group, his ministry and the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) as “apathetic”.
And while he gave the assurance that the tourism ministry was willing to work with them more closely he suggested that the group take certain steps to ensure their viability.
Symmonds said while smaller hotels were “indispensable” and “needed to be defended”, he told them they could not continue to operate in the same vein as they had done for the past 40 years.
He said the smaller chains were mostly responsible for attracting long staying and repeat visitors to the island.
Symmonds called on the Intimate Group to join forces rather than compete against each other.
The Tourism Minister declared: “It is my judgment that the Intimate Hotels should be branded as a group that the 49 separate properties should be brought together as a group, under a common brand. There is some obvious things you will benefit automatically from.
“Your procurement right now, if you have a 25-room hotel you are buying linen for 25 rooms, buying cutlery for 25 rooms.
“But for 1075 rooms… those things become a lot cheaper and a lot easier to achieve if it is done at that level than if it is done at the level you are now doing it at.
“Also in terms of marketing there is potential for a new reality. If you have a marketing programme for which the Intimate Group is being marketed, this Minister is prepared to use the BTMI and its considerable reach and also affiliate entities which are still knocking on the door of the BTMI and which have in some instances even greater reach than the BTMI.
“Let us not see it as competition and bring all the players to the table.”
The Minister’s stance was support by the group’s deputy chairman, Mahmood Patel.
He said the Minister’s remarks were “welcomed” and called on his colleagues to work collectively in the future.