Prime Minister of Grenada, the Hon. Tillman Thomas recently described the purchase of the former La Source by Sandals as ‘a potential game-changer for our tourism industry’. He went on to say, the entry of resort company Sandals to Grenada’s market is ‘a tide that could lift all boats’. I think he is right, perhaps in more ways that we can initially anticipate. What is remarkable about this ‘deal’ is the timing, which must make it at least a candidate for the quickest hotel acquisition ever in the Guinness Book of Records.
It was reported that La Source only closed around the 19th October, when 150 workers were laid-off. Yet, within three weeks the Government of Grenada ‘facilitated their (Sandals) investment with a package of incentives’. While other administrations around the region hesitated, procrastinated and some may even imply, might have adopted a form of hibernation akin to prolonged sleep. Perhaps galvanized by the negative consequences of revenue and employment losses and the danger of possibly losing airlift, someone picked up the phone and made the move.
Among the immediate benefits of the arrangement are, massive media destination awareness coverage, reaching millions of people worldwide without it costing the Grenada Board of Tourism a single cent. With a projected re-opening date of 15th December 2012, it will give a huge boost to the upcoming critical winter season. Many loyal Sandals clients will also want to sample the brand, in a new and exciting location. And as PM Tillman so astutely observed, was pleased at the ‘promise of the transfer of skills to Grenadians and an improvement of service in the industry’.
Sandals founder Gordon “Butch’ Stewart has indicated his intention to take the re-named Sandals La Source Grenada Resort and Spa from its current 100 rooms up to 265 guest rooms, private cottages and bungalows over the course of the next ten years. Many of which will be concierge and butler level including the brand’s signature Rondoval suites. As this happens, employment will grow and there will be a positive trickle down effect on the entire local economy.
Mr. Stewart wasted no time with an announcement and images already posted on the corporate website for the travel trade and consumers all to see around the globe. It appears a total win-win situation for everybody and kudos should naturally go to all those involved who made it possible.
It is difficult not to draw a comparison with the Almond Beach Village situation, where seven months after closure with the loss of nearly five hundred jobs, no happy conclusion seems to be in sight. Already we are suffering the negative effects of reduced airlift and as further time goes by, it will become even more difficult to re-open the property in its rapidly deteriorating condition.
If it gets to a point where upgrading the existing plant becomes nonviable, we all know just how long it would take to re-build and open a superior alternative. For those that can recall, Almond Casuarina provided a classic example of that scenario.