THE JUSTIFICATION behind the GEMS project (Hotels and Resorts Ltd), was we are told, ‘to raise the standard of the South Coast hotels’.
Has this mission statement become a reality?
Well we know of the three remaining hotels under GEMS management that $145 million is owed to Government plus according to the Auditor General another $37 million in yet unpaid interest.
This is before any other additional loans or grants are taken into account from the former Caribbean Commercial Bank, NIS or other sources.
So from a business viability point of view, the value of the remaining properties is substantially less than outstanding debt even after the sale of Eastry House and Silver Rock.
Where the funds from the sale of these two properties have gone has not yet been disclosed to the taxpayer.
Now have they managed to physically raise the standard of the South Coast?
Around 30 of the rooms at Blue Horizon still remain derelict and at least two of the hotels need substantial refurbishment, so the conclusion must be, no!
How do their guests rate the ‘standards’?
The world’s most viewed travel website is www.tripadvisor.com where around 5 million travellers who have actually stayed in the rated hotels post their comments.
On Barbados 104 hotels are listed and currently the GEMS properties as follows:
Blue Horizon #64
Time Out at the Gap #71
You only have to view some of the actual guest’s comments to see that they are a long way off achieving their purported mission statement.
It is long overdue that the current Minister of Tourism and/or Prime Minister gives the taxpayer a clear explanation of exactly where this project is going and how Government is going to re-coup what is estimated to be in the region of between $100 million and $200 million in losses.
In simple terms what could amount to up to four times the annual marketing budget of the Barbados Tourism Authority, spent to promote the entire industry and destination.
17 February 2007