It was fascinating listening and watching online the Appropriation Bill and Estimates 2019 from parliament last Monday, which I understood to be under the auspices of the Standing Finance Committee.
The ground breaking gathering within parliament of several leading private and public sector tourism decision makers will hopefully help our elected representatives acquire a better overall understanding of the industry.
It was clear that many of the members asking questions were doing so in the specific concerns of their constituents, rather than in the national interest, but that should not minimize their contribution, as that is what they have been elected to do.
One of the subjects discussed was the development possibilities of new-build, transformation or re-opening of existing or additional hotel plant. The Minister of Tourism brought up the subject of the now derelict Silver Sands Hotel which has remained idle and unused for several years. The Minister, also raised, what I thought was a very good point, that Government (any) should not consider investing in a project that would be unprofitable for private sector involvement.
For those of us deeply affected and disadvantaged by the Hotel and Resorts (GEMS) folly, where somewhere around $600 million was squandered, this new policy is music to our ears, if seriously effectuated.
The final insult to the GEMS disaster was witnessing at least two of the taxpayers owned properties being sold off at far below valuation and building costs, again dramatically impacting on the viability of private hotel operators, who had been forced to pay realistic property prices.
Also mentioned briefly, was a proposed upcoming tourism investment conference, which later I discovered is to take place on 24th April 2019. While no further details were publicly available up until the time of submitting this column, I sincerely hope that time will be taken to specifically target potential smart partners who may be tempted to commit to Barbados.
Thomas Cook Airlines currently operates seasonal flights from Gatwick and Manchester offering a lower cost alternative to the United Kingdom from the year-round established carriers like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. From their website, it appears they will not operate in November this year, which for one month alone is a loss of 1,600 seats. It may not be common knowledge that the Thomas Cook Group has announced further new openings of another 20 own-brand hotels between now and the end of 2019, taking its portfolio to over 200 hotels with 40,000 rooms, making it one of the top 40 largest hotel groups in the world.
These are currently mostly in the greater Mediterranean area but they also have a presence in Egypt and Gambia. While recent doubts have emerged concerning the company’s trading losses and possible disposal of the airline division, the hotel division looks like it’s in for the long term.
Enric Noguer, Thomas Cook’s chief of hotels and resorts, stated ‘Expanding our own-brand hotel portfolio is success to the whole business. Operating and overseeing a group of well managed and high quality hotels that our customers recognize and turn to for better service and reliability they experience is an important part of our strategy as a group’. So could a Thomas Cook, branded Silver Sands Hotel, present a match made in heaven, while at the same time help retain and seasonally expand the airlines flights to Barbados.