Management and staff at the Radisson Aquatica are extremely disappointed about a viral social media video which they say has “misrepresented” the company’s position on the treatment of locals who traverse the beach at Carlisle Bay, in front of the resort.
And, despite a subsequent conversation with the creator of the video to clarify the misunderstanding, General Manager Gerry Lewis says tremendous damage to Radisson’s corporate reputation has already been done.
“It is a travesty to hear what we heard and it has hurt the staff of the hotel, because the staff are aware and know that we treat Barbadians with respect. So, it has not gone down good with us, because it is wrong and it is misinforming the public,” he told Barbados TODAY.
The video, which was posted on Sunday by Steven Williams, recounted a frustrating experience along the stretch. He said he was unable to rent a beach chair from a vendor in his preferred spot because the vendor’s licence did not allow him to do so.
Williams went on to point out that another establishment, Dipper’s Beach Bar, refused to rent beach chairs to him and his wife because he was not a member of the club. When the upset beachgoer made a similar request to staff at the nearby Radisson, he was refused, as he was not a guest.
This triggered a long-winded rant in which he slammed the two establishments for creating an “artificial space” that would give tourists preferential access to that section of the beach.
“Somebody that is willing to rent me an umbrella can’t, because it is not his territory on a beach . . . . We are not talking about walls that the [vendor] has to climb over or a specific property that somebody bought. Radisson doesn’t want to rent me. Dippers doesn’t want to rent to me. It’s the same cotton-picking beach and the only thing is two artificial umbrellas up to show his spot that will rent to me because he just wants to get a little business. Things are slow in this country and they have artificial crap . . . and I am pissed off. Do you know why? Because Bajans want money and these two . . . places here, Radisson and Dippers, are only renting to guests and there are no bloody guests in the country,” Williams complained.
The rant attracted over 70,000 views, 2,600 shares and 940 comments on Facebook, with many condemning the “privilege” from which the two establishments were benefitting. It also prompted a letter to the editor from Barbados’ Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador David Comissiong, who noted that according to the Hotel Proprietors Act, Chapter 309, no hotel is permitted to deny the use of their facilities – inclusive of the “provision of food, drink, sleeping accommodation and services” – to any person who appears willing and able to pay the “common tariff” or standard fee for said facilities, and who is “in a fit state to be received as a guest of the hotel”.
The issue of beach access has long been an area of contention, particularly for working class Barbadians who have lobbied on numerous occasions against perceived attempts at privatisation and other underhanded attempts to exclude locals.
Over the last few years, the country has seen an increase in the number of independent vendors offering beach chairs and other amenities along the island’s most popular spots. Since then, numerous issues have arisen between hoteliers and vendors over access to prime spots on the beach.
But in a blistering response, Radisson’s general manager stressed that the hotel does not engage in the rental of beach chairs, and instead offers them as an amenity to guests who are both locals and tourists. Lewis was also adamant that his staff would have had no objection if the vendor had placed the beach chair in front of his establishment, stressing that he was unaware of restrictions imposed on independent vendors by the National Conservation Commission (NCC).
“His post would make the general public feel as though he wanted to be over here and the Radisson did not permit him, and that is not the case. That is not the truth. If he had his own beach chair and placed it in front of the Radisson, we would have had no problem. Bajans come on this beach in front of this hotel and lie down and enjoy themselves and we have absolutely no issue, but the post insinuates that we would have an issue if Barbadians come and lie on the beach where our tourists are and that is not the case,” the hotelier contended.
“[Williams’] point in his post suggests that we were being discriminatory towards him because we rented chairs to guests and tourists and not to Barbadians and that is absolutely not the truth. Beach chairs are an amenity offered free of charge to those who stay at this hotel, including Barbadians that are here on staycations and day passes every single day.”
Lewis further stressed: “My hotel is 100 per cent Barbadian. There are no expatriates on my staff, so we treat Bajans here with respect, and every opportunity I get as the general manager of this hotel, I thank them for their patronage and for their support. So, to see a post like that caused me great concern because it is inaccurate and I believe that Mr Williams understands that it is inaccurate, but the damage is already done.”