Strong interest in Hilton & other local hotels
Cabinet is considering numerous proposals for the takeover of the Hilton Barbados and the GEMS of Barbados hotels, with decisions on the properties likely early in the New Year.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler is not disclosing the names of the interested parties just yet, though he did say that the majority were foreign hotel brands.
He described two of the offers for the GEMS properties and the Hilton as “very reasonable” and “interesting.”
The Government-owned GEMS property, which is managed by Hotels and Resorts Limited, went bankrupt after accumulating more than $229 million in debt.The Savannah Hotel has since been leased to the Bernie Weatherhead-led Sun Group.
While the Blue Horizon Hotel remains open, the other GEMS property, Time Out at the Gap, subsequently closed its doors.
Sinckler told Barbados TODAY there had been a “very high level of interest” in the properties, particularly within the last eight months.
“We’ve had both individual offers for individual properties and we’ve also had at least one offer for the entire package of three. The board is currently analyzing those offers. We know that, for example, in the case of the Blue Horizon Hotel a very specific offer has been made,” Sinckler said, noting that Sun Group had indicated its interest in taking over the property entirely from Government.
“Of course, I can’t give the specific details of who has made the offer but the offer put on the table is an extremely reasonable offer. In fact, it is a very good offer from all of the reports that I have seen from analysts and so forth and so on and they’re in the process of looking at that but there are additional offers on the table as well.”
In the case of the Hilton, Sinckler said there had been several offers for the Hilton, one of them within recent weeks.
“The Hilton has a very special place in the hearts of Barbadians. It grew up with us from since Independence, it’s an Independence hotel, and it’s not one that we would easily part with. So whoever is coming would have to come exceedingly good,” he said.
The Minister of Finance indicated that Government might retain interest in several of the properties if a joint venture was pursued.
He noted, however, that if the administration approved the proposals, it could see some of the properties expanded, undergo major refurbishments or rebuilt.
“It depends on what the people feel and they see as the possibilities that might be there and their own model and structure because these people, particularly the international brands have their particular model and they want to make sure they maintain that standard . . .” he said.
Sinckler believes the renewed interest was due to the fact that “the properties are good properties.”
“We’ve tried to keep them in a reasonable good state of repair, but I think overall we’ve really worked hard to turn around Barbados’ tourism investment grid. The foreign direct investment market internationally is extremely competitive. We normally compete with people in the Caribbean for investment, St Lucia, Grenada, Antigua, Jamaica and so forth. We’re competing with Mediterranean countries, we’re competing even with Africa now to some extent in terms of investment in this type of activity. But Barbados has always been an iconic destination, it has always been a special place that people want to be, want to visit, want to live in and want to invest in,” he noted.
“I think the [decision] to change the concessions in relation to the operationalizing of these properties and to strategically use what we have under 67B of the Income Tax Act to pinpoint those investments that will bring foreign exchange into the country by way of investment and that will earn foreign exchange when they’re completed to build the value-added and contribute to our GDP, I think that is beginning to bear fruit.”