EDITORIAL: Potential boost for Bridgetown
Thu, 03/24/2016 - 12:18am Barbados1
JUST last month it was reported that plans to construct a close to 200-room Hyatt hotel on Lower Bay Street were closer to becoming a reality. For almost two years now, tourism and other Government officials have been speaking about a Hyatt coming to town, seeing that and the revitalisation of the Sam Lord’s Castle property to be operated by the Wyndham brand, as major boosts to the economy – enhancing the tourism product and providing thousands of jobs and job opportunities during the construction phase and on completion.
No one can deny that brand name hotels are attractive to tourists, but Barbados is a country that has not focused so much on brands over the years, with many of the hotels being indigenous. Nevertheless, given the research that suggests that brand name hotels do better in economic downturns than those independently owned and operated, these two brands could certainly aid the tourism industry, which it seems is already on the mend.
As we move then in this direction, it is imperative that the relevant authorities ensure that structures to be built fit into the Barbadian landscape, and do not stick out like sore thumbs. We make the point especially as it relates to the Hyatt, which in its proposed location – the site of the old Harbour Police Station and Detco Motors – puts it right in Historic Bridgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is therefore crucial that the developers take this into consideration and ensure that any structure put on the site is compatible with the existing architecture in the area, as the UNESCO stipulations state. The RBC Royal Bank building at the top of Broad Street is one they can draw inspiration from. Though built long before the country submitted its application to UNESCO for Bridgetown and its Garrison, the building is modern, but has utilised some of the architectural features of the adjacent Parliament Buildings, and the two complement each other.
The State also has a responsibility as it relates to this tourism-related property. Quite frankly, Government must ensure that the area surrounding the proposed hotel is spruced up, so that it too is aesthetically pleasing. If one takes a drive down Lower Bay Street, the quantity of abandoned or derelict buildings, coupled with the structures in the area – residential and commercial – which are in desperate need of a facelift, are glaring.
There are several areas within the historic City that need to be spruced up and we respectfully suggest that Bay Street, one of the major arteries into the heart of Bridgetown, be placed high on that list. This no doubt could be an initiative undertaken by the Preservation Barbados Foundation Trust in association with the Ministry of Housing and Lands which owns London Bourne Towers and at least one other housing estate in that area. It certainly would not be nice for guests to be enjoying their plush surrounding, while looking out from their rooms at unsightly neighbourhoods.
Additionally, given that this will be the first hotel to be built in the City, the potential is there to stimulate additional commerce in Bridgetown. We could perhaps see more tourism-related businesses – hotels, restaurants and specialty shops moving into the City, as well as housing – owned by both the State and the private sector. Should such initiatives indeed take off, the potential for vast economic expansion has a solid foundation with the amendments that were made to the Shops Act, allowing shops to open longer hours.
This was a step in the right direction, as it helps to create the requisite environment for Bridgetown and Barbados to grow.