A range of ideas for Barbadians to become part owners of local hotels were offered as the tourism sector remained in sharp focus when the Estimates Debate continued on Wednesday.
Among the suggestions that came from Minister of Tourism Ian Gooding-Edghill and Permanent Secretary Francine Blackman were for smaller hotels to be refurbished and offered for purchase and the listing of hotel companies on stock exchanges.
Gooding-Edghill, responding to questions from St Michael South Central MP Marsha Caddle in the well of Parliament where he sat with other officials in the sector, admitted that not all avenues to get Barbadians invested in tourism, particularly in hotel ownership, had been explored.
“We should perhaps start looking at opportunities for maybe venture capitalists with the full participation of the Barbadian public. Maybe we should go the route of having maybe an initial IPO [initial public offering] or floating a company on a local stock exchange or refloating it elsewhere on any other stock market,” said Gooding-Edghill, a former human resources director with Elegant Hotels Group which benefited from similar stock exchange listings.
Blackman added that there were other options available to encourage Barbadian participation in the hotel sector.
“Some of these smaller hotels can be pooled and refurbished and offered to Barbadians for purchase of shares,” she suggested.
The PS added that attracting high-net-worth individuals who relocate during specific periods of the year – for example, people from the Gulf states who leave their homes in the extremely hot summer months – could also be a potential benefit for local hotel ownership.
“They usually travel with an entourage and be part of the experience [in another country] for a month to two months. I see an opportunity there for us with the small hotels to be able to tap into that market and have Barbadians, however it is structured, be part owners so we share in the wealth and not just simply supply labour to the hotel sector,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Minister said there was a need for a financial stability study of hotels in Barbados to chart a course for the redevelopment of some properties.
He added that a number of small properties could also reposition themselves and be transformed into boutique-style hotels.
Gooding-Edghill suggested that the African Export-Import Bank could be approached for funding for this type of redevelopment.
“Where we can perhaps channel a lot more resources for refurbishment, with a clear plan of action that once you refurbish the hotels and you classify them into whatever categories that are required, that they too can come out with gains that others have done,” he said.