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Sandals' investment in Barbados cited as bright spot in economy

Friday, June 13, 2014    

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) - Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association President Patricia Affonso-Dass has described the investment by Sandals International in that country as 'encouraging', citing current investments in the local tourism industry as the 'bright spots'.

Sandals is renovating the landmark tourism property, Almond Beach Resort, which it purchased at the cost of US$125 million (Bar$250 million).

Sandals already has another property -- the Casuarina -- under renovation, and Affonso-Dass observed that with that company forking out its own money for property upgrades, Government is left to direct its capital support at other real estate in the sector.

She noted other investor property buy-ups, including a takeover of Amaryllis that is set for renovation and the purchase of Four Seasons. Financial investments also affect Sandy Beach, which is being converted into a condo hotel; and there is planned development for Settler's Beach.

"All these developments, to me, signal a shift in a positive direction and I am confident that once the island can show a strong, progressive climate for attracting tourism investment that is backed by facilitative agencies that truly understand the industry and its need for speed and dynamism that we will see growth, development and progress," Affonso-Dass said.

However, despite seeing current investments as bright spots in Barbados, Affonso-Dass said the Barbados tourism sector has been affected by a litany of woes, ranging from the effects of a recessionary economy, visitor security, to declining arrivals and low spending, in the wake of international financial rating agency Moody's pronouncement on Barbados, Affonso-Dass said.

"The Moody's triple downgrade issued last week and the initial IMF press release issued on Friday following their consultations with the public and private sectors over the past week are not good for the country and there remains a tremendous amount of uncertainty and fear about our future and the economy," she told the association's annual general meeting on Wednesday.

Affonso-Dass steps down from the top private sector tourism post after service for two years, which she described as the most challenging time in the islands tourism history.

"Between June 2012 and today we have seen continued declines in arrivals and visitor spend on the island, we have seen closures of hotel properties; we have seen continued challenges in our source markets. And while they have slowly begun to creep out of the deep recession and start showing signs of positive growth, the competition from other warm weather destinations is fierce," she said.

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