As officials broke ground on Tuesday to make way for the new Hotel Indigo on the south of the island, Prime Minister Mia Mottley gave the assurance that Barbados’ ageing tourism product is in line for a major transformation with new hotel construction and continued upgrading of old properties.
Mottley said her government was prepared to build on the $300 million Barbados Employment Sustainability and Transformation (BEST) programme, which propped up the tourism industry during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, by working closely with the private sector to refresh the industry.
“We have done reasonably well, but the government is now intent on building on that because the kind of tourism product we have cannot take us much further into the 21st century without new investment and without refurbishment of the existing plants,” she said.
“That is what the Government is focused on and shall be working with members of the private sector to be able to see how we can reposition this tourism sector we have in order to have that capacity to deliver,” she said.
The BEST scheme was introduced in September 2020 to keep some 60 per cent of tourism industry workers employed at 80 per cent of their 2019 salary for at least one year, as the pandemic virtually wiped out any business in the industry during 2020 and much of 2021.
It also allowed tourism-related operations to undertake renewable energy projects, start digitisation and forge deeper linkages with agriculture, manufacturing and the cultural industries.
On Tuesday, officials of the Crews Inn Group, who will be operating Hotel Indigo, broke ground for the construction for the plant, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
Mottley said this project was just one of many which would be undertaken in coming months.
“I expect you will see others going forward. This is the first major groundbreaking of a tourism kind,” she said.
In addition to the off again, on again US$175 million Hyatt Ziva Barbados Resort, the Mia Mottley administration has been touting several hotel and tourism-related projects along the Bay Street to Holborn Circle, St Michael area that are to come on stream.
She declined to say exactly what other projects would soon get going. However she recalled the former Caribbee Hotel saying: “I spoke earlier about the maturing of Barbados’ tourism product, what is happening here is the exact thing that we want to happen.”
“When we talk about repurposing old and mature tourism product for a modern-day Barbados, this is the example of what we are speaking of, being able to have more density on this site, being able to therefore command more revenue for the hotel to make the hotel more competitive, and at the same time, ensuring that those sites that had literally brought earnings for the country and jobs for Bajans can do so again in this way,” she explained.
James Edghill, Director of Caribbean Consultants Limited, parent company of One Warrens Ltd, is leading the construction of the 131-room Hotel Indigo, which is a brand owned by InterContinentals Hotel Group (IHG), one of the largest hotel companies in the world.
“It is very prestigious that Barbados can attract such a brand . . . It will be seven storeys, it will have three food and beverage offerings and it represents approximately US$50 million investment by the investors,” said Edghill.
He said during the construction phase, 250 people are expected to be employed and when opened and in full operation, the hotel is to employ about 75 people.
The property is to be outfitted with photovoltaic systems, low-flow and low flush systems in the bathrooms and have a full recycling programme.
Prime Minister Mottley said the investment represented a vote of confidence in the economy, as she thanked the team from the Crews Inn Group for choosing to invest in Barbados.
“I want to encourage all those who are ready that we are ready for your investments and we are ready to be able to ensure that growth is the middle name of every Barbadian in terms of the quality of service that we give and in terms of the facilitation we must do. We understand people have choices and we need to make them choose Barbados first by reason of our performance and what we do,” she said.