It comes as no surprise to me that the chief executive of Almond Resorts has been talking to staff at the physically lovely Almond Beach Village in St Peter and Almond Beach Club in St James. As it happens, I have had a nasty and toxic experience with both hotels in October and predicted then that they would soon die a natural death.
First, the business model is dysfunctional, the so-called all-inclusive model, which in my analysis is culturally poisonous, commercially short-sighted and takes not a blind interest of the tourists’ Barbados experience. This archaic and incompetent business model is in part a lot to do with hotel regulators and governments in Barbados (DLP and BLP) who allow this form of business to exist.
Confirmation of this is the silly financial economic claims of a leading Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association leader that to allow Almond Resorts to go to the wall, which it should, would be a ‘systemic risk’ to the Barbados economy. This idiot should be kept as far away from the functioning of the Barbados economy as drug dealer Mr Garcia should be from Barbados.
The collapse of this waste of a business space may be hurtful in as much as people will lose their jobs, and in these economic conditions, that is not nice. But to suggest that it would threaten the entire Barbados macro-economy is such bumkum it is laughable. More important, is the Almond Resorts so-called business model: the idea is that tourists book and pay overseas – at least the ten people I encouraged to book with the company in October for a wedding – and, while in the hotel, all drinks and food are ‘free’.
Ignoring for the minute that there is only so much ordinary people can eat and drink and that Almond Resorts is not a charity, there are also question marks about whether or not guests are permitted to bring friends in to the hotel, even on a visit.
Tourism official do not realise that in many cases the people visiting have had West Indian colleagues and friend, often relatives, who they want to entertain. To give an example, a couple friends of mine were about to get married and, being a good Barbadian, I encouraged them to tie the knot in Barbados. I even told them that Almond Resorts would be a good place to stay. They booked through a company in Sussex, who then passed them on to one in the Southern United States. I am sure all that was perfectly legal and proper, but it nevertheless should be looked at by the taxation authorities in Barbados. How much of that money actually reaches Barbados?
In any case, my wife and I arrived in Barbados the previous week and on the Monday when my friends arrived I met them at the airport. They then travelled on to the Almond Beach Club (they were under the impression they were staying at Almond Beach Village) in the hotel’s own transport and I waited for a cousin arriving from the US. Later that evening I went down to the Beach Village to visit my friends: at the gate, a very nice security guy tried to help, but without success; he passed me on to one of the workers in reception, who worked away on the computer trying to locate my friends – interrogating the data base at both the Village and Beach Club, but without success. On my way back in to Bridgetown, I decided to stop off at the Beach Club to see if they had booked in there. At the gate, a short Napoleon-type figure, with all the unsmiling aggression he could muster, was more concerned that I did not enter the hotel than he was with locating my friends.
When I asked if I could go down to the bar and restaurant to see if I could identify them, since I knew thy had arrived in the country, a young, rather portly man at reception told me I could not. When asked why not: he repeated that it was an ‘all-inclusive’ hotel and the food and drink were free and management did not want guests drinking and eating too much. I then left my telephone number with the little Napoleon and asked him to give my number to my friends, if he located them.
By the way, my wife and I are black; all the other members of the party were white, English, but Napoleon took it upon himself to point out, as explanation for his failure to identify my friends: “Man, I could not find any dark skinned people down there.” I had to point out to him I did not mention anything about skin colour.
The following morning I still did not receive a call, so I drove again to the Beach Club. Same messing around by so-called security – who even tried to prevent me from parking in the empty car park – only this time one of the bag lads took it upon himself to take me down to the beach to look for them. This was on condition that my wife remained at reception – effectively as hostage, in case I ran off with the food.
On walking on to the beach, the very first group of people I met were my friends, who understandably thought I had abandoned them. I told them the story and they were shocked. No-one had approached them, they were not given my telephone number and, in fact, the engaged couple had been flooded out of their room and had to move.
I can go on about this long litany of incompetence and dysfunctionality, but will end with three other points: we went to the bar for a quick drink and to watch football (soccer) on television, but when the barman was asked to turn on the television he said it was not his job, an example of good customer relations.
The wedding was at the Village and the reception at the Beach Club, so the bride was being driven to the Village by the hotel’s own van, but when she tried to take on board the suitcase with her wedding dress the driver told her she could not; passengers were not allowed to take luggage on board. To cut a long story short, the couple had to pay Almond Resorts US$150 for my wife and I to attend the dinner on the Friday evening, which we did not eat because we were in a rush to go to Oistins for real food.
To cap it all, and, horror horrors, when they left the marriage relation counsellor was off sick so they could not get their marriage certificate. All this was told to tourism and hotel officials. When I was called at home by the Resort’s personnel officer, she laughed as I told her about the Fawlty Towers customer relations; to this day she has not provided an explanation or apology for that catastrophe posing as customer relations.
Just imagine this gross incompetence, this dysfuntionality, this bogus nonsense of a business model being repeated on numerous occasions day after day and you get the picture. Government and tourism officials must take this behaviour seriously because the brand being damaged is not the only Almond Resorts, but Brand Barbados.
So, after 50 years and hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars, this is the mess that masquerades as a tourism sector. I now understand that Ralph Taylor, the chief executive, is discussing with staff a management buy-out. Now this is an example of how the national insurance can invest in the tourism sector.