Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds has assured that Barbados is not lacking investment appeal and investors will be pumping millions of dollars into the economy in coming months.
Introducing the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (Amendment) Bill in Parliament on Tuesday, he said there have been several expressions of interest in the tourism sector this year, one of which could amount to over $400 million.
Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance Dr William Duguid had expressed concern that investment was not happening fast enough.
But Symmonds said: “It is not that Barbados lacks appeal for investment. The process of the investments coming to maturity is a process that we have always understood, because there is a thing called business facilitation. We have always understood this is one of the tumours that this administration still has to wrestle with and to cure. Business facilitation must be made faster, it must be made better.
“It isn’t to say there isn’t an expression of interest, it isn’t to say there are not people lining up and almost pushing down the doors to get here; it is how fast we can get through some of the fundamental work that must be done,” he added.
Pointing to the tourism investment conference held in Barbados back in April, Symmonds said 18 likely opportunities were showcased for potential investors to “make brand new so-called green field investment in Barbados”.
Many of the locations for investment, he said, were along the Carlisle Bay, St Michael area, adding that “the dotted line has been signed on the legal work with regard to the procurement of Carlisle House for the purposes of transforming that into a hotel” by Irish businessman and former chairman and chief executive officer of Coca-Cola Company, Edward Neville Isdell.
Symmonds, who recently returned from Ireland, said there were others in that country who “continue to express an interest” in investing in Barbados.
He added that people were “exceptionally interested” in the plot of land owned by the Trinidad-based conglomerate Massy Group at Pierhead in The City.
“But you have to put together a consortium or partnerships because what is being contemplated for there is a marquee type of investment and the fact of the matter is that you are probably looking at an investment that will run to approximately $400 million or more. That is not the kind of money that comes overnight,” insisted Symmonds.
He said there was also interest in the former Caribe Hotel in Hastings, Christ Church, which is up for sale for about $11.5 million.
Describing the huge property as an eyesore, Symmonds said a lot of the preparatory work has now been completed and “right now we are in the hands of those people who are doing the environmental impact assessment”.
“The intention is to build a Hotel Indigo on the old Caribe site. Hotel Indigo is a part of the world famous InterContinental brand and the Indigo Hotel will be 175 rooms. So again, the challenge is not attracting the investment, we have done that. The challenge is in the facilitation of the business because there are steps you must take in terms of your Town Planning approval, your environmental impact assessment, etcetera – all of which continue to be a part of the work of reform that this Government has to be able to wrestle with,” he said.
Symmonds gave the assurance that the investment for the tourism sector was not only in “the traditional walls of hotels”, adding that Barbados would not transform into a place only for a getaway, but also a destination for people to do business, and access products and services.
He said the country would also continue to welcome investments in the education and healthcare sectors.