Almond Resorts: Failing because of poor TripAdvisor reviews?

Inadequate maintenance = Poor tourist reviews = Dramatic reduction in bookings?

by Adrian Loveridge - small hotel owner

“Too big to fail’ was one of the many emotive headlines appearing recently and relating to the future, if any, for the Almond Resorts group. Of course the statement could be right: 836 rooms spread across three hotels, which gives the potential of a massive 305,140 room nights annually. Even at an average occupancy of 80 per cent, with two persons staying in each suite for 7 nights, that could amount to almost 70,000 long stay visitors per year.

Already for the summer, Barbados has seen a dramatic decrease in airlift with Virgin, British Airways and Air Canada all scaling back and perhaps more to come with American Airlines. Unless other existing properties, whether hotels, condominiums or villas could absorb what amounts to over 1,300 guests weekly, further flight reductions would be almost inevitable.

The question that seems still to be begging is how was the current Almond Resorts situation was allowed to get to this stage?

Perusing, a 32 page document entitled Circular to Shareholders dated 29th May 2007, so many reasons, some of them extremely evocative, were given why Neal and Massy Holdings Limited and The Barbados Shipping and Trading Company Limited, should in their words ‘merge’.

These included: “the benefits that would be derived from the sharing of know-how and the creation of such a stategic relationship’; ‘capable of achieving substantial growth in the markets and industries in which the companies operate’ and ‘the new entity will hold top-tier positions in many industrial sectors (including)  tourism”.

This document was supported by a three page Fairness opinion synopsis prepared by the highly respected ‘independent’ Miami based Broadspan Securities Llc., which describes itself as a ‘leading restructuring advisor in Latin America and the Caribbean’.

So again, I pose the question, what went so fundamentally wrong?

Many of us in the industry, were suprised to see what was the former Casuarina Beach Club, which recorded one of the highest occupancy and repeat client levels, lay idle for so long. We can only assume that delays obtaining planning permission for expansion was a major factor.

The acquisition, whether in terms of ownership or management of another two large (by our standards) hotels in St. Lucia, also caught industry watchers attention.

Perhaps the belief was that a sufficiently established and credible brand had been created already with the two original hotels and that this would help fill another roughly one thousand rooms.

Timing, of course can be everything and mitigating this scenario, it is easy to introduce the global economic recession into the equation.

But other strong brands have not only survived, some are actually managing to flourish.

What is also puzzling, is why the company when ‘merged’ with stated assets exceeding US$1 billion did not spend more on the Barbados based properties to at least maintain, let alone upgrade the plant. Yet, the costs of the legal and financial advisory services to ‘merge’ these organisations had a quoted cost of BDS$5 million alone.

It also became abundantly clear, from many of the TripAdvisor reviewers comments that a considerable percentage of guests did not feel their expectations were being met and this must have severely impacted on new bookings.

I understand a special shareholders meeting is scheduled for this week and let us hope in the interest of our tourism industry a meaningful and satisfactory solution is found to ensure the hotels stay open and staff employed.

Adrian Loveridge

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19 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

19 responses to “Almond Resorts: Failing because of poor TripAdvisor reviews?

  1. rastaman

    Maybe you need to put the Chairman & CEO Mr Taylor in the equation to find out what really went wrong.Was it a case of him feathering his own nest?.

  2. watcher

    The economy and the ability to compete in the economic conditions that exist are the problem. When costs to the tourist become high they shop for a better value and the tourists are telling Barbados there are much better values be they Mexico, Cuba the Dominican or some other place. Tourists who have excess funds available also have a much wider choice that include some excotic destinations for the same price as a all inclusive week in Barbados.

    Fixed monetary policies, high inflation and rising fuel costs as well as tax policy add to the problem being created by being a distant destination. A bad situation that is destined to get worse if a dranmatic new approach to getting visitors is not undertaken.

  3. Bill Gibson

    I feel sorry for the Barbarians. There’s no wonder that the booking goes down on this Island. Also I wonder that there some people ask the question why? The answer is everywhere to read. Poor service unfriendly behave. But this is also not a wonder why. If the P.M. tells the Barbadian that it is more important that the Barbadian feel well with the tourists. After this the tourists can feel well with the Barbadian -how silly.
    As an former management consultant I will give you an advice what I would do to make business. If I will do business, I as an businessman give a shit whether I feel well with the guest or customer. So long he will bring no harm in my live, I smile to him – cost nothing. I will be the politeness in person – cost nothing other a smile. I will get some money from him to make my business that‘s what my business is. If I would not be able to do so, than I should not make business, I should working as an dustman.

    If you go in an restaurant, an hotel or an bar in Europe (per example) the first time the owner or the waiter smile at you and say hello to you. If you come the second time he is more happy because it says to him you like his work. If you come the third or fourth time, he will take your hand and bring you at a table. This is an professional manner. Here in Barbados, most of the owner or waiter (not all) have no manners. If you come here in Barbados the fourth time in the same bar, restaurant or café they react as would they have seen you never before. Sometimes I think where I am? Is this a sleeping room or an restaurant? And if you not say twice time hello, nothing comes to you. Therefor the people from Europe (per example) come never back. It is not the economic, it is the service. It’s so easy to make a good service. Be friendly, knowledgeable and professional will cost you only a smile and the guest will return. Until you are kind to your guest, your guest is also kind to you. Not vice versa.

  4. rastaman

    @Bill Gibson: You know I really think you meant “Barbarians” cause that is what Bajans are most of the time and not only to tourists.

  5. My visit to Barbados showed me a number of things I didn’t like.

    I got the feeling that everyone knew you would never return and they then treated you like they had to get everything from you this time.

    This was show by lying cab drivers and false rates to poor restaurant and dining facilities taking hours to serve simple food and charge the world for it. Most businesses were after the money.

    The wonderful people who live there never get a chance to show tourists their generosity and honesty.

    I won’t ever be back. And I bet people tell their friends too.

    If I am spending thousands of dollars on a trip I expect to enjoy myself, not complain about being ripped off.

  6. Adrian Loveridge

    StarCom news have reported this afternoon that Almond Beach Village will close on 30 April 2012 with the loss of around 500 jobs.

  7. Bill Gibson

    @rastaman: I must say I really would have written differently, but it is a nice play on words. But there are also very nice and polite people in Barbados.

  8. yatiniteasy

    @Adrian
    Perhaps a condition for Butch of Sandals to buy Almond is to have them close it, fire all the folks…that way he has no obligation to hire them, or honour the NIS and severance obligations.He will be able to sift through the staff, and rehire only the best qualified , not the people who got a job because of friendship or family connections, or politics. He is , after all, a Caribbean man,so he knows how things are done.This may not be a bad development in the long run, as he has proven he knows how to run successful resorts and make money…even in the worst of economic conditions.

  9. what will they think of next

    yatiniteasy, dont fool yourself he used to run air jamaica and he almost ran it into the ground.

  10. Tony Webster

    Bill Gibson, you are right on the money! C. 1975, I was slaving away as a junior manager (yes, managers also “workers”). I was tasked to look after a very bright and engaging British I.T. chap, who had set up our computer system two years previous, and had returned to his resting place of his first trip, Barbados Hilton.

    Well, the first day he came into to the office, guess what he was overflowing with? Sez He”Tony, I was so pleased that as soon as I arrived at the front desk to check-in, the lady greeted like an old friend, saying “Hi Mr Frenay, nice to have you back” (nb: Young Mr. Mike Frenay, had NOT yet given his name to her) Well, he was not quite sure as to how she managed to produce this bit of “hospitality magic”:, but he said he felt like royalty. It got better; later, he ventured down to see if his favoutite beach was still there, and ambled over to to their beach bar, only to be similarly greeted by the bartender, who sings out merrily with with: ” Hi Mr Frenay, great to have you back with us, what can we get you?”
    No prizes for where Mr Mike Frenay has stayed , in subsequent visits, nor for the value he would have added to Hilton’s marketing efforts, ever since.

    A successful business is a complex organism, and it’s not a matter of doings some things “right’, sometimes, but of “checking ALL the boxes, ALL the time. The most crucial ingredient is quality management, followed closely by the synergy that develops when one recruits the most suitable staff possible, and both work in close collaboration, and co-operation.

  11. what will they think of next

    Failing businesses should be allowed to fail.
    I see no good reason to prop up a bad business.

  12. what will they think of next

    StarCom news have reported this afternoon that Almond Beach Village will close on 30 April 2012 with the loss of around 500 jobs.
    Adrian Loveridge

    There is another problem, why would a hotel that size have 500 people employed?

  13. rastaman

    Maybe they were on the payroll but working somewhere else?

  14. Anonymous

    Rastaman, you know that there is more to this than meets de eye…………!!

  15. 13

    Failing because of poor TripAdvisor reviews?

    No.. failing because of the lousy attitude and poor service of the staff and owners. Rip offs abound there.

  16. LOOSHAN

    Just to give some information, when Ralph Taylor masterminded the acquisition of the former Club St. Lucia by Splash resort in St. Lucia, any severance payments due to staff (who were all released and not automatically transferred to the new company) were negotiated to be the responsibility of the previous “owner” or effectively Official Receiver. Do not level allegations against Butch Stewart who has a legacy of commitment to his people. Perhaps there may be sour grapes because to this point there are no Sandals resorts on Barbados providing relatively secure employment – certainly lower risk than many resort operating organisations. Personally, watch this space as I suspect Mr Stewart will acquire property in Barbados in teh very near future….Almond??? maybe…

  17. rastaman

    Wonder how much Mr Taylor feathered his own nest when he “MASTERMINDED THE ACQUISITION OF THE FORMER CLUB ST.LUCIA”
    Also you mean to tell me that an experienced hotelier like Mr Taylor did not know that maintenance and refurbishment is neccessary to keep the property a certain way?LOL

  18. Susan

    I have returned from the Almond Casuarina and am struggling to understand what people want from a best value for money resort. We were offered 3 meals a day,and afternoon tea, at a choice of three different restaurants, entertained in the evening by outstanding musicians and vocalists, within the hotel. The entertainment continued during the day on the beach, from local ladies and gentlemen, who are generous with their time, information and local knowledge. Water sports and sailing trips arranged. However, the calibre of tourists visiting Barbados has changed. Possibly due to the fantastic value one experiences at this resort ,making it affordable to other than the wealthy, who possibly behave appropriately when on vacation. The staff and management at the Almond Casuarina were exceptionally pleasant, accomodating and keen to see all enjoy themselves to the maximum.
    The best value for money holiday I have ever had. I have spent double the cost on alternative holidays in Barbados and in my book the Almond Casuarina comes out tops.

  19. Pingback: Hotels and Resorts Part Two? Barbados government to purchase Almond Beach Village Resort – Government will compete against private tourist hotels | Barbados Free Press