Our competition: The Venetian Macao
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?