Wednesday, 2 November 2016

BARBADOS: Sandals Resorts International Investing US$150m Into Barbados

Sandals Resorts International (SRI) is investing an estimated US$150 million to expand its property in Barbados, a move that should see an additional 900 jobs being created in the eastern Caribbean island.

Hotel General Manager Ferry Zievinger said last week that an additional 222 rooms are currently being built at the Dover Beach property, which will bring the total number of rooms to 502. With the additional rooms, the hotel staff should increase to 1,170 when the expansion, which has been dubbed “Phase II”, is completed in November 2017. The project began in June of this year.

“... If you look at it, it’s quite a large expansion. The resort is built on seven acres of land and we’re adding 14 acres to that. So in surface, it triples in size. This will give us more space in terms of landscaping; and it gives the resort more quiet areas where people can relax. We’re adding seven new pools, and the rooms that we are adding are of high quality top-notch materials.

Along with the rooms, we’re going to be adding a dedicated entertainment pavilion with a main stage, changing rooms and some first-time features for Sandals which we cannot talk about just yet,” Ferry said of the two-year-old hotel.

He noted that the expansion was also a way for the Jamaica-grown hotel chain to further “stand out” as an internationally recognised brand.

“The product needs to be great, well-designed, and modern. ...But in the end it’s the people. The people from Barbados, since we’ve come here, have opened their arms for us. As long as we keep improving our product and keep re-inventing ourselves, that makes a difference,” he said.

Added to that, Senior SRI Director of Corporate Services Jeremy Jones said that the rate of occupancy the hotel has been achieving and the “demand for the product” – which, he said, has a lot of equity – influenced the decision to expand the resort.

“An additional 600 persons are going to be employed at the opening phase and then that will also be a function of what the occupancy is going to be like moving forward. So once you have the full capacity in excess of 500 rooms you’re going to be looking at close to 900 new staff,” he said.

In the meantime, Barbados’ minister of tourism and international transportation Richard Sealy has described Sandals Barbados as a “reality” to the tourism-driven nation, with the resort accounting for at least 20,000 of the 591,000 visitors to the island last year.

“We understood a couple of things at the time. Barbados’ hotel stock had been somewhat dated; we had just over 5,000 hotel rooms and a lot of those rooms were not really new rooms. A lot of those rooms were not branded, and that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with indigenous brands, because they are a huge part of our tourism experience, but we understood that we needed more international brands and we needed to get more foreign investment into our accommodation plant,” Sealy said.

“And so, that’s why we agreed that in exchange for certain concessions, once we were sure that a certain level of investment would take place, we would work with Sandals, and that really was the background against which it became a reality in Barbados. It is a definite plus to have Sandals here,” Sealy said.

He also credited Sandals for the increase in tourist arrivals from the US market, which has been a challenge for the island over the years.

“One of the things that comes out very clear is the strength of the Sandals brand in North America. The US market has always been a challenge for us – not that we don’t do well in the US... [but] our UK business has dominated, and part of the reason for that is because Americans like brands. Sandals has been able to help us in a very significant way to get more US business to come to Barbados. If you look at this year we are 11 per cent up on last year, and last year was one of the best years ever in terms of business out of the US, and a lot of that has to do with the work that we are doing with Sandals,” Sealy continued.

“...People are now looking at Barbados because of the Sandals product and because of the ever expanding Sandals property.

“This particular investment, this particular project has been a beneficial one and a fine example of precisely what can happen when you have enlightened government policy colliding with enlightened investors, and it can lead only to the general good and well-being of the community,” Sealy said.