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Getting tight

Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy

by Roy R. Morris

The window of opportunity for re-opening Almond Beach Village in St. Peter in time for the start of the 2012-13 winter tourist season in December is closing quickly.

Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy acknowledged today that based on the pace at which things were moving, there was the possibility of Almond Village, closed by majority owner Neal & Massy Limited in April this year, “not being in the mix” when the season opens.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Sealy noted though that industry officials were doing all within their power to minimise the negative impact of the continued closure of the near 500-room West Coast property on the overall performance of the local tourism sector.

He revealed that all of the airline charter services that had been “anchored” to Almond were already committed to servicing Barbados in the 2012-13 season, and a number of local properties were offering prices consistent with Almond’s.

“Yes, we have to accept that there is the possibility that we will not have Almond Beach Village, but we still have Casuarina, and the Club [in St. James] is coming back on stream,” Sealy said.

“And the charters like Air Transat and Nordic, will be here. There are times when you have to work with what you have, and there are other properties that have stepped up to fill the void. But that does not change the fact that Almond is a prime 21-acre beach front property on the West Coast and it is in our interest to get it back in the mix as soon as possible.”

He noted that each of the three entities that had offered to purchase the property had indicated that extensive construction work would be involved, and depending on how they approach its execution Almond’s rooms might not be available for some time.

“We are talking about significant demolition, almost rebuilding the property and rebranding — all of that takes time… We are hopeful that Neal & Massy will make a decision soon and in the meanwhile we will wait to see what they decide. N&M President and Group CEO Gervase Warner told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that as yet no decision had been made on the sale of the property. He said interested parties were still refining their offers, but in the end the final decision made would be in the best interest of shareholders.

“We have to make sure we get the best possible deal for our shareholders,” he said, adding that in the interim the property was being maintain to minimise deterioration.

Asked whether he believed it was possible to finalise a deal at this stage and have the property re-opened by December, he said there were “people looking at it for whom this is still possible”.

Owner of Crane Residential Resort, Paul Doyle, who has submitted a proposal to buy the property, agreed it might still be possible to do business at Almond come December, but noted the window was closing very quickly.

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