Green light for Sandals
The continued expansion and upgrading of Sandals La Source has been creating new jobs for Grenadians. And, according to the company chairman Gordon Butch Stewart, the very same can be done right here in Barbados.
Stewart said Sandals Resort International was now finalizing plans with the Barbados Government to build the proposed new Beaches Resort on the site of the former Almond Beach Village property in Heywoods in St Peter. Furthermore, Stewart said, both sides were committed to this objective and that Sandals was thrilled at the possibilities of bringing the award-winning Beaches brand to the island.
Back in September, after a Cabinet decision instructed the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc. (BTI) to work with Sandals to have a resort in the island, the BTI later resolved to give the go–ahead for the brand to operate and manage a rebuilt Almond under the Beaches brand, with an option to purchase the property at a future date. It was believed that Sandals’ building of a 426-room, all-inclusive family resort would allow Barbados to regain its share of the families market which was lost with the closure of Almond Resorts” and bring an additional 112,684 visitors to Barbados annually.
“This large number of visitors will protect airlift for the entire tourism industry in Barbados and contribute to an increase in visitor spending. It is also worthy of note that Almond, at its peak, accounted for an additional 25,000 visitors annually. The Sandals proposal would increase this number by a factor in excess of four . . . ,” Cabinet was told.
“While it can be argued that the issue of a long-term operator for the Heywoods property should be the subject of a public tender, it is the view of the Ministry of Tourism that the need for the return of the room inventory to production is extremely urgent. In addition, it is also believed that a tendering process is unlikely to result in a better operator than Sandals, since the only other major all-inclusive operator in the Caribbean region was Almond Resorts Inc., which is now closed,” the BTI advised.
“It should be noted that Barbados stands to gain substantial exposure as a result of the marketing and promotional might of the Sandals brand. The company has indicated that experience in other destinations show that the mere announcement that a Sandals property is to be constructed . . . is enough to generate interest from the airlines. The Ministry of Tourism is satisfied that this matter is urgent and that there are no other operators as capable as Sandals in assisting Barbados to maintain its share of the all-inclusive tourism market, while protecting airlift into Barbados,” the Cabinet document said.
When an agreement is finalized, construction is expected to take between 24 to 36 months .
While reporting that the work in Grenada was progressing smoothly, Stewart, said to date 1,200 jobs had been created, 99 per cent of those employed being Grenadian nationals. When completed the resort will boast 225 luxurious suites in three exotic villages; it is scheduled to open on December 12.
”We are about 75 per cent booked for the 2014 winter and it’s just a tremendous start to our first resort in Grenada. We have been working towards expanding our luxury– included concept to Grenada for the last 12 years, so this initial burst is very heartening,” Stewart said. Sandals acquired La Source Grenada resort in November 2011 and announced a multimillion-dollar expansion and upgrading to what is expected to be Grenada’s largest and leading resort brand. Beaches currently operates three all– inclusive properties in the region: one in Turks and Caicos, with two in Jamaica. (KC)