…it takes cash to care for these facilities says Guardsman Hospitality's GM, Laura Heron

Observer Business Writer

Sunday, September 15, 2019

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General Manager at Guardsman Hospitality (GH), Laura Heron strongly believes that the idea of free beaches is non-existent, this, if operators are to maintain and care for these spaces properly as well as secure payback for investments.

Heron offered her view during a recent media tour of the Fort Clarence Beach in Hellshire, St Catherine. Fort Clarence Beach was recently leased by the Urban Development Corporation to Guardian Hospitality for 25 years with an option to renew.

“If we can get free utilities and I mean free water, free light, free employment then we can offer free beaches but it cannot be that as a public we accept these spaces in sub-standard conditions. These types of entities cost money to maintain, even to use the bathroom cost money. We have to run it on a cost that pays back for our investment”, she asserted.

In contrasting the operational cost of other properties operated by her company, Heron pointed out that it takes cash to care.

“Our average water bill at Puerto Seco is about $1.2 million per month, I believe that we're probably going to be in the same ballpark here [Fort Clarence] for water, electricity based on the type of set up is pushing up to $1 million as well”, she revealed.

Heron added that as a way of cutting costs, certain measures are to be engaged to reduce operational overheads, one of which, is the use of solar panels to cut electricity cost.

“We're now at the point where we are looking to put in solar panels and feed on that during the day in particular, at Fort Clarence we might have to look at the same thing to try and keep cost down because utilities are extremely expensive in any of these types of operations”, she said.

In addressing the concerns of vendors who may be displaced by operators once upgrades are completed, Heron said that measures are being secured to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. She said that while her company was not made aware of any vendors on the property, she is willing to have dialogue with anyone once engaged.

“What we are doing is putting together a sort of tender document, so they [vendors] are very welcome to put in a proposal for the operation of these facilities, because we don't plan to be operating them ourselves and the general public is free to put in a proposal and may the best person win” Heron informed.

The Fort Clarence upgrade which will have a water park facility including a swimming pool is expected to be completed over a five years, employing between 40-50 persons. The revised cost to enter the facility once completed will be drafted based on the accumulated cost of renovation.

“This will be kept to a minimum,” Heron said.

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