There is a possibility that Government could sell the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC) in the not-too-distant future to its main occupant, the Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM).
This hint came from Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds, who said the island’s need for a larger conference facility was rapidly increasing.
“Increasingly, we are contemplating the reality that it would probably would be better to allow Ross [University School of Medicine] to have all of this place and we shift or move from the capital gains of a transfer of this asset to Ross to a brand new convention centre, which would allow for even greater capacity in terms of the ability to host people and host events.
“That is not a policy decision that has been taken. I am just saying to you that is where our minds are at,” Symmonds told the opening of a local investor conference at the LESC on Wednesday.
There have been reports in recent times that the RUSM, which is located at the Two Mile Hill, St Michael location, was in discussions with Government to purchase.
RUSM is a subsidiary of Adtalem Global Education Inc., which is also the parent company of Chamberlain University, which Symmonds said would soon be setting up shop in Barbados.
The LESC, which was established in 1994 and is the largest stand-alone conference facility in Barbados, is operated by the Barbados Conference Services Limited (BCSL).
Symmonds told reporters that his ministry and the Ministry of Culture were working “very hard” on expanding the number of meetings and conferences and events and the question therefore will arise about whether or not LESC is adequate in terms of its capacity.
“Ross University is likely to be here to stay and certainly can be invited to do even more expansion because they have so much going on. The reality is that Barbados is going to start to have discussions very soon about what is the optimum level of conference facility that we have,” said Symmonds.
However, he made it clear that Ross purchasing the LESC was a mere thought at this stage, pointing out “Are we there at this point today? Not yet, but do I foresee us getting there? If all things are equal and go according to plan, yes I can see within three to five years that this will be a discussion that we seriously have to have.”
Symmonds pointed to the island’s planned hosting of the 15th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) scheduled for October next year and noted this conference should attract between 3,500 and 4,000 people from the 188 UNCTAD members states.
He disclosed: “It took a little bit of negotiation with the UN so that we can have the conference broken into smaller pieces around the island, because it couldn’t possibly all be done here on this location all at one time.
“The reality is that even though we have the capacity in terms of seating, the requirements for a plenary session where you would then have everybody under one roof at the same time in the same room would be very challenging,” he added.
The Tourism Minister said bigger conference facilities would allow for Barbados to attract larger conferences to these shores.
“We must be able to attract this level of business. and to do so between the middle of August and end of October when there is traditionally a trough period,” said Symmonds.