By Marlon Madden
The Hilton Barbados Resort, long established as the Barbadian People’s hotel, is taking major steps to reposition the multi-storey, 350-room hotel it co-owns with the government as the country’s leading accommodation centred on Bajan culinary experiences and cultural heritage.
Recently, Hilton Barbados representatives announced the commissioning of a wide range of art pieces from Barbadian artists at the Needham’s Point resort as part of an expanded project aimed at supporting and promoting local artists.
In addition, Hilton Barbados has relaunched the Grille Restaurant to serve a range of Bajan-inspired dishes and introduced the Careenage Rum Stop – a Bajan rum shop-inspired bar and dining option that will only feature locally-inspired menus and serve Barbados rum.
General Manager of Hilton Barbados Resort Jacques Monteil said so far, the hotel had over 40 local paintings, sculptures, as well as clay designs and he was committed to increasing that number.
Addressing specially invited guests at the unveiling ceremony, Monteil explained that in addition to a massive painting displayed at the front desk, depicting a section of the ocean surrounding the hotel, a major art piece will be placed on each of the eight floors of the hotel, which was first opened at Barbados’ independence in November 1966. The original hotel was demolished and rebuilt at the turn of the century and further remodelled in 2017.
Each will have different themes, showcasing various aspects of Barbadian heritage and culture, including the neighbouring Garrison Savannah and Main Guard clock tower, the sugar cane and rum industry, the ocean and the Old Charles Fort on which the property sits, the rugged East Coast, Bridgetown on a Saturday, fisherfolk, music including the steel pan, the culinary delights associated with Oistins, and cricket.
He said the partnership with the local artists will see each painting having a QR code that can be scanned so that individuals can visit the websites of the artists and view the information on the hotel’s art collection.
On the Careenage Rum Stop, Monteil explained that this represented the island’s popular rum shops.
“That is only going to serve Barbados rums,” he announced. “We have great rums here represented by many. We spend a lot of money getting the collection and there is still more to do. We are invested. We have rum barrels as furniture and we are doing enhancements. It is seven nights a week entertainment, and guess what, the entertainment is all [local].”
The Grille Restaurant will be a steak and seafood eatery with an array of Bajan-inspired dishes.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Ryan Forde welcomed the development, suggesting that the enhanced offerings should help set destination Barbados apart from others.
“We must always look at ourselves and realise what makes us distinct from other tourism destinations is our culture and heritage. We must do this with pride and in the usual joyful attitude that we Barbadians normally share on a day-to-day basis,” said Forde.
“We must also share this joy with onlookers and raise the demand for Barbados as we look at new markets, new partnerships and new initiatives. Tonight it is a night of small wins and celebrations as we look towards a path of leadership that celebrates our people, our Island, our culture, our cuisine, our heritage and of course, all of the pride that we share together.”
Speaking on behalf of the government, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with Responsibility for Culture Senator Shantal Munro-Knight said the initiative demonstrated a “nexus between tourism and culture that is so very critical” and that Barbadian culture was being valued.
She said she was hoping that other accommodation and businesses would follow suit, adding that it had the potential to help create jobs in the creative industries and encourage innovation.
“I am hoping that this will create some level of jealousy such that we will have other corporate partners coming on board to demonstrate that significant understanding and that we will see not only other hotels but other businesses as well on the taking similar initiatives to again marry their business culture with the creative economy because that is important,” said Munro-Knight.
“If we are able to get that to be able to spread to have hotels across this country to have business across this country demonstrating the value of art, demonstrating the value of the creative economy then we begin one not only to embed the value of it for others and ourselves but as well then we then expand the creative economy.”