The Almond Resort saga although in the news is competing with the CLICO, REDjet, and other issues which get top billing because of the political dimension attached to them. That is if we measure based on the court of public opinion. In an earlier blog comment BU suggested that the tourism sector should be managed as a strategic asset. If there is a doubt about the criticality of Almond to the sector there is a simple equation which paints a vivid picture – Barbados Room Stock (6000) minus Almond Room Stock (600) = 5400. This translates to a 10% reduction in the national room stock net of Almond. To extrapolate, conservatively the 10% equates to 1000 direct jobs and after factoring the multiplier, the number grows to 2000 people displaced if Almond were to close its doors. The final piece of the analysis and as important is the need to factor that Almond is a forex generating enterprise which means opportunity cost has to be factored as well.
Why the country has not become emotionally connected to this issue is symptomatic of how displaced as a people we have become in ordering our priorities. Some may cite a lack of vision by today’s leaders to chart a path for the kind of country [avoided the use of the word society which as become so politicised as to lose its meaning nowadays] we want to build.
When Ralph Taylor was appointed Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) BU joined a few who criticised the appointment. Almond was on the decline then and commonsense should have dictated that the hotel required his undivided attention. On a related point, BU also criticised the appointment of CEO of the BTA David Rice whose background is in hotel operations and not sales. What recommended him for the job appears to be the fact that he is a buddy of Ralph Taylor. [fodder for another blog].
Almond is an all-inclusive hotel which is marketed as a 4-star. However a stroll around the plant confirms it does not merit the designation. Why was the property allowed to deteriorate? Why did the company expand into St. Lucia which resulted in adding to the debt burden? To what extent should Almond shareholders hold the directors responsible for the sorry financial state of Almond? Bear in mind Almond was considered to be a jewel in the crown, a model of success for Barbados. Here is yet another example of how the failure of a private sector enterprise may have serious implications on the national landscape. Another case where the governance system has failed. Almond is a publicly traded company for chrissakes!
Almond Chairman Arthur Lok Jack has hinted that the Almond property in St. Peter (formerly Heywoods) may have to be closed at the end of the winter season [April]. What experience did Neal & Massy promise when it purchased Barbados’ only conglomerate Barbados Shipping & trading? BU recalls there was the promise of reduced food prices because Neal & Massy would leverage the fact they owned several supermarkets in T&T and Bahamas at the time.
Are these issues a manifestation of the high concentration of ownership of businesses by Trinidad in Barbados?