The Adrian Loveridge Column – Veteran Hotelier Shares His Incredible Story

As our days as active hands–on hoteliers come to a conclusion it maybe time to reflect on our 30 year journey in order to acknowledge and personally thank some of the many people who have helped make our seemingly impossible dream reality.

By the time we completed the purchase of the then derelict Arawak Inn, from initial contractual agreement to completion, the value of sterling had fallen by over 25% against the US/Bds$, virtually eliminating the funds we had put aside for renovations and refurbishment.

At that time all the monies to complete the Sale had to be brought in from overseas carrying an additional ten per cent government tax for the ‘privilege’. So a derelict hotel and no funds to upgrade……. What do you do?

The Banks were extremely reluctant to provide overdraft facilities and the vast majority of distributors and suppliers declined any form of credit accounts.

Number one on the ‘Thank You’ list is Richard Carter of Carter and Company Ltd who believed in us from that first order of greenheart lumber.

Second would be Peter Marshall, formerly of Mount Gay, for supporting our various culinary promotions.

We desperately needed a 21 foot high ladder but could not afford one. We proposed a trade-off with Scott Oran, who willingly supplied it based on restaurant trade-offs at a later stage. Win, win situation.

Whilst our cherished guests, with their personal reviews, had vaulted us towards the heady heights of Trip Advisor # 1 hotel on Barbados, in the background, all at Axses Web Communications, but especially Kathy-Lynn Ward, was monitoring and guiding our social web presence to a level far beyond invoice value charged.

Of course it was never all down to money.

The late Sir Harold St John visited us often two or three times a week. Even when I was painting a door or a wall he would kick off his shoes, relax, and we would talk for hours on a subject we both loved – tourism! Quite remarkable when you think he represented a constituency that we could not vote in and was a rival hotelier at that time, just half a mile away…

Later Dr Colin Hudson gave us the confidence and expertise to operate our` walking tours of Barbados, which became the second best selling destination of the worlds largest specialty walking tour operator (with New Zealand being the first.)

It would be silly to portray there have not been bumps along the road. A classic example was during one week, when we had exhausted our bank balance and had no in-house guests, and the only life line was our popular Sunday BBQ, which required the necessary ingredients. Some may remember the green trading stamps given by a leading Supermarket. My wife spent the night sticking in these stamps and the following morning redeemed sufficient provisions to serve 50 BBQ offerings. That revenue sustained us until the next guest arrivals and we moved on.

Not for a second am I heralding this as a sensible ‘business plan’ and any bankers reading this column will probably twinge with horror. But in all honesty, this is often the everyday reality of operating a small business!

Should our experiences put you off acquiring a small hotel?

Peach and Quiet has introduced us to some of the most incredible people on earth, many who remain friends and have become life time devotees to Barbados.

Together, with our small staff, we are immensely proud of our contribution to tourism and sincerely thank all those people along the way that helped make it possible.

Peach and Quiet:Small Businesses Should Have the Right to Offset

The following is a communication which was sent to the VAT Office by Hotelier and social commentator Adrian Loveridge.

Adrian Loveridge - Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

Adrian Loveridge – Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

On or before the 15 March 2013, we will be expected to pay over to Government the amount of $37,526.60 in Corporation taxes due for the last financial year [2012]. If we do not pay on time, then there will be an immediate fine of 5% of the amount due, which equates to $1,876.33 plus interest accrued of 1% per month or 18% annually, which is 3 times the latest rate of Government borrowings to sustain a bloated public service and pay for dismally failed projects like GEMS (Hotels and Resorts Limited) and the chartering of Carnival Destiny for CWC2007.

As a small business that has operated on Barbados for twenty five years and has honoured all statutory obligations, it is a significant amount of money. Yet the same Government has owed us outstanding VAT refunds of nearly $30,000 for up to two years. Of course they have not paid us any late penalty charges or interest.

Before going public, I have written personally to the Ministers of the various Government bodies involved, but up until today not received any form of response.  It appears they feel they have no obligation to businesses that are successful, sustainable (through there own efforts) and those who have demonstrated viability over decades of operation. Yet week after week, it is almost impossible not to read or listen to endless rhetoric about the importance that small businesses will play in the recovery of our economy.

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Pine Hill Dairy Yanks the Production of Yogurt

Adrian Loveridge - Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

Adrian Loveridge – Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

We moved to Barbados almost 25 years ago and purchased what was the semi-derelict Arawak Inn. Thus began our journey in the hotel business. As non-nationals, not surprisingly, only a handful of suppliers would extend us credit. We have remained fiercely loyal and faithful to that small group.

When Pine Hill made its entirely unilateral decision to stop producing yogurts it went entirely in the face of a policy we implemented, when Peach and Quiet opened. That was whenever practical to buy local.

What is also almost incomprehensible is that this decision was made at a time when our struggling dairy industry is trying to survive in the wake of a massive unsold milk glut. One or two people have indicated that Pine Hill did in fact issue a public notice in the media to the effect that they would no longer be manufacturing yogurts. But wouldn’t you, as a matter of course, write to customers that have traded with you for two decades? After all, we have never been too busy to write and sign, literally hundreds of cheques to them over that period. It almost reeks of arrogance and indifference on their part.

So what do the 160 or so registered hotels, hundreds of villas, apartments and condominiums do now?

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The Tourism Business, A Labour of Love for Adrian – Part II

Adrian Loveridge - Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

Adrian Loveridge – Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my introduction and what became almost a addiction to the tourism industry, and in this column I would like to continue with part two. After three years on the road with Globus Gatway, I felt that I had the confidence and knowledge to start my own tour operation. Of course it’s a lot more difficult than it initially sounds. Start small and grow was the plan. Using my savings, I purchased a Ford 12-seater minibus and began by driving and guiding my own long weekend tours to Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Brugge based from a small office in Britain’s most easterly inhabited island, called Mersea.

Among our first customers, was my now wife, who later joined the fledgling business and played a vital role in its growth. We soon outgrew the minibus and started chartering other firm’s coaches. We knew there was a market for travellers who wanted a high standard of transport from a convenient departure point, to stay in nice hotels, but at an affordable cost. It went far beyond price though, we wanted to get it right, without compromise.

Our groups stayed in beautiful hotels which included the Inter Continental and Schweitzerhof in Berlin, Admiral Copenhagen, Pultizer Amsterdam, Cayre, de Castiglione and Concorde Lafayette Paris, Royal Windsor, Brussels and Crowne Plaza Hamburg. Hotels that normally would charge room rates far above our meagre budget. But, when contracting accommodation, I soon learnt the first question you asked, was when do you want us? This was the secret.

Related Link: The Tourism Business, A Labour of Love for Adrian

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The Tourism Business, A Labour of Love for Adrian

Adrian Loveridge - Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

Adrian Loveridge – Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

As we prepare to enter a brand new year, 2013 will be another benchmark one for us personally. Our small hotel celebrates its fortieth birthday and my wife and I enter our collective one hundred years in the hospitality industry.

I owe old copies of National Geographic magazine to my first interest in tourism, while spending prolonged time in hospital as a child. Even five decades ago the images were outstanding, and to me, captivating. I knew, that with my limited formal education, that I was never going to be destined for a ‘normal’ job or career. Even before leaving school I worked as a waiter in the Bath Hotel in Lynmouth, North Devon and later training as a Commis de Rang, at one of Britain’s historical hotels, the Old Ship in Brighton which opened it’s door in 1559. Not for a moment did I think waiting on tables was a demeaning task and would genuinely take great pleasure in ensuring diners had the very best possible service and experience. Surely that’s what we all want.

Most of the monies earned were spent travelling. My first big trip was hitch hiking to Istanbul, along the way stopping in many cities, towns and villages. I vividly remember visiting Paris for the first time and marvelling how beautiful it was and so different to London. Yet geographically, so close.

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LIME’s Poor Customer Service

Adrian Loveridge - Hotel Owner

Like many other businesses, communication is critical to the survival and success of our hotel. The ability to respond promptly to booking requests is directly related to the level of occupancy. If we do not answer emails quickly, there is a strong possibility that a potential guest will move on to another property and/or destination where they feel they are more appreciated. So, whether we like it or not, we are almost hostage to the monopoly landline provider, Cable and Wireless (Barbados) Ltd.

If I start counting the days one or more of our telephone and internet lines have been out of service over the last year, it is staggering. Even when we have an internet connection, often the speed is dramatically short of the promised delivery.

Last week we reported one line out of order through the call centre in St. Lucia or Jamaica. A sixteen digit fault reference number was given and a remedy was promised ‘in 12 working hours’. 5 days later, we are left to wonder exactly how Lime defines a working hour.

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Leveraging The Power Of TripAdvisor And The Internet To Compete In A Global Industry

Adrian Loveridge - Hotel Owner

Up until the time of submitting this column, well over 500 major news organisations and publications have reported on the 2012 TripAdvisor Travelers Choice Award winners. Tens of millions of people around the world, among them many that will be making holiday plans will scrutinise the list and finally decide where they feel they can get the very best hotel value for money and level of service delivery.

More astute national, regional and individual city tourism organisations have been quick to link their destination with the awardees, taking full advantage of what amounts to free advertising and promotion.

While our own Government tourism agency has yet to take advantage of this almost unprecedented global exposure, Barbados has done relatively well in a number of categories. 3,943 properties across 30 countries and eight regions have received these coveted awards this year and as their Press Release reiterates, ‘unlike any other hotel honours, TripAdvisor Travelers Choice winners are based on millions of valuable reviews and opinions from travellers around the world’.

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Tourism Officials Need To Listen More, Talk Less

Submitted by Adrian Loveridge

Richard Sealy, Minister of Tourism

Back in the nineteen seventies, after working in Canada, I returned to the United Kingdom, taking two temporary non-travel related jobs to establish enhanced credibility for the purpose of obtaining a house mortgage. Both were important learning experiences which I have never regretted.

The first was working as a salesman in a branch of a high-end consumer electronics retailer selling audio equipment products made by manufacturers that included Bang & Olufsen and Roberts. The manager instilled a valuable lesson that has stayed with me for life. His view was that if you are ever going to effectively sell anything, whatever it was, that you had better know everything possible about it.

I think he sensed a genuine interest and allowed me to take, what at that time, were very expensive pieces of equipment home at night and weekends to familiarise myself with their features. Months when later I formed a tour operator company, this acquired wisdom formed an integral part of the business master plan.

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Government Must Not Kill The Golden Goose – Small Hotel Suffers 50 Percent Hike In Land Tax Valuation

Adrian Loveridge - Hotel Owner

Just when you were beginning to think that it was almost impossible to absorb anymore increased operational costs and stay in business, out of the blue comes yet another surprise. This time for us, its a 50 per cent hike in our Land Tax Valuation.

The number of hotels that have closed over the last 16 years now exceeds thirty and that fact surely cannot have escaped the authorities. Their closure doesn’t seem to indicate improved viability in the sector or that the value of the accommodation property has dramatically increased. So where on earth can there be any logic in re-assessing our small hotel upwards by over 16.6 per cent per annum for the next three years?

Of course, we can object, providing we do it within 30 days of receiving the notification, but a week has been lost already, as the assessment apparently took a week in the post to reach us from Bridgetown, judging by its issuance date. To give that objection any real credibility, we would have to have a professional valuation undertaken, which again takes time and at speculative additional cost. In our case, valuers have indicated at least $7,000 and at a time when we are probably experiencing one of most difficult trading periods for decades.

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Government Can Do More To Enable The Environment For Small Business Enterprises

Adrian Loveridge - Hotel Owner

Our precious four acres of Inch Marlow has felt more like the United Nations over the last week with guests from Lithuania, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, United States, Canada, United Kingdom and for the first time, Uruguay.

It’s a far cry from 1988, when we purchased a then derelict Arawak Inn and spent just about everything we had in the world, transforming seventeen separate buildings into a functional hotel. I graphically remember a prominent Barbadian hotelier telling me soon after we moved here, almost with glee, that ‘we were never going to make it with just 22 rooms’. While dejected at the time, I am really glad now that I didn’t take a blind bit of notice of him.

Also the lectures from bank managers telling us that we were undercapitalised or overtrading!

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