While I fully understand all the fiscal restraints Government currently has and the historical and possibly political desire to complete the recently re-named Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Conference Centre, I would like to propose a second option.
There is no doubt that Trinidad and Tobago stole a march on the Southern Caribbean by constructing a new conference facility and an adjacent first class hotel.
It’s no secret that most people attending conferences, for all sorts of reasons, want to stay close to where the event is taking place. The very last thing is they wish to endure is to spend indeterminate amounts of time fighting with rush hour traffic to reach where the function is taking place.
For whatever reason, ‘we’ missed a golden opportunity with the construction of the Hilton. 354 rooms, but not one large enough space to host major exhibitors and trade or consumer shows.
In hindsight it would have been so easy to have incorporated a single meeting area on one level of at least 10,000 square feet. Whether it was rooftop, basement or even formed part of the car park!
It’s not too late!
Needham Point still offers one of the most desirable locations for further development and if we seriously want to maintain and attract further airlift year round, this is our chance, even during a recession.
The former refinery land could be used and the barracks together with other buildings currently used by the Royal Barbados Defence Force be tastefully incorporated while protecting their architectural heritage.
Even the derelict pier could be transformed to provide a spectacular waters edge restaurant.
Much discussion has taken place over the years about the proposed Pierhead development, and I am still in full support of this project to help revitalise historic Bridgetown. Not only would it to attractive to long stay visitors but also within easy walking distance of the quoted 700,000 cruise ship passengers entering the port each year.
I believe that the development of Needham Point into a major conference and event centre would provide the catalyst to ensure that Pierhead becomes a viable project. Restaurants, shops and other facilities generating valuable foreign currency!
The chairman of one of our major construction and development companies recently stated that it was time to put back.
Could his company together with others in partnership with Government make a world class conference facility a reality?
Very few of the above are new ideas. Many have been voiced before. But now is perhaps the time to turn the concept into reinforcing the viability of our entire tourism industry.
28th January 2010