Barbados must act to build a major convention centre… or lose everything

Our competition: The Venetian Macao

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner - now selling!

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner – now selling!

In the first week of this month a mission left Barbados for Macau, a special administrative region of China, to attend the 13th International Indian Film Awards (IIFA) ceremony which took place on 5th July.

Headed by Minister of Culture, the Hon. Stephen Lashley, this public and private sector delegation was the brainchild of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and intended to hopefully bring the event to our shores next, or in a future year.

Macau, like many of the other venues where the function has been staged, is an extremely difficult act to follow. By reclaiming the land between two islands, a Las Vegas in the Orient was created which boasts so many attributes – including the world’s largest casino, the Venetian Hotel, with its 3,000 suites and a conference facility that can seat 15,000 people theatre style.

This year’s anticipated global television audience was estimated at 800 million and that’s before you add YouTube and all the other social media sites and conventional media coverage.

I am sure all those involved in the evaluation did a great deal of research prior to the visit as clearly there are some real challenges if Barbados is successful in securing any bid.

For instance, when IIFA  2012 took place in Singapore, the attending actors alone occupied over 400 rooms in the Grand Hyatt Hotel. We then have to think about the Awards ceremony itself, which has attracted up to 3,000 attendees . Currently our largest meeting facility at LESC can only accommodate around 1,200 to 1,400 people seated in a single space.

According to the Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex website, they can hold ‘approximately 4,500 to 5,000 persons.’ But would this number be seriously compromised when taking into account the space needed for what can only be described as the ‘normal’ spectacular opening show.

Is it time to look again seriously at solving the environmental issues at Needhams Point, then take the plunge to build a truly world class conference centre there. I bounced this off a diehard ruling party supporter recently, and his words were, “Oh! that was a BLP idea, it will never happen in the lifetime of this Government.”

Frankly, should we care a damn whose idea it was?

Was it a good idea or not?

Yes! the administration is currently cash strapped, so is there another way?

What would be wrong with an entirely privately funded, owned and operated facility?  Our construction magnates have been very vocal about state sponsored projects drying up. How many workers could be employed on the clean up and fabrication? And is there a creative way we could harness major players like Sir Kyffin Simpson and the SOL group of companies in the endevour through tax efficient inducements?

Ultimately the trickle down effect generated by a new meeting centre would benefit the entire tourism sector and many others. It could also play a critical role in the revitalisation of Bridgetown and piggyback off the potential benefits driven from World Heritage status.

We have already lost significant business share in the convention and incentive market to Trinidad. As room stock and airlift rapidly increases in neighbouring St. Lucia, are we just going to wake up one morning and find they have stolen the next thunder, having completed a similar complex to that in Port of Spain?

5 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism

5 responses to “Barbados must act to build a major convention centre… or lose everything

  1. Pingback: Barbados must act to build a major convention centre… or lose everything | Barbados Blog !

  2. you are right again, Adrian. This whole region must start seeing the tourist industry as comprehensively as they see it in asia

  3. Yatinkiteasy

    We can’t even get Four Seasons off the ground after x years and zillions of promises. I think we should think Quality, rather than size. We can simply never compete with the multi million $ developments in Asia.
    We are a very small Island with limited resources, not so great beaches(really) fairly unfriendly folks in all sectors of retail and the hospitality industry . We have to get back to the basics that made us popular and famous in the first place. This includes safety and non harassment by beggars, vagrants,drug pushers and pimps. I recently stayed a fantastic 4 star resort in DR that had more guest capacity than all of Barbados Hotels put together!
    Who are we kidding?

  4. john

    That’s right Adrian, what Barbados needs is more seafront development. Just like Four Seasons and Harlequin. Preferably on a site of historical importance. There is far too much history in Barbados,gets in the way of making money. The sooner it is got rid of the better.

  5. Carson C. Cadogan

    this is rubbish.