Submitted by DAVID COMISSIONG, Citizen of Barbados
In the editorial entitled “Let’s be fair with Hyatt objections” published in the Weekend Nation of Friday the 2nd of September 2016, the Nation editorial- writer admonishes Barbadians like myself who oppose or have reservations about the proposed 15 storey Hyatt Hotel, to engage in thinking that “represents the national interest and not personal or narrow parochial or political motives.”
The editorial-writer goes on to acknowledge that vacant or available beachfront land is becoming increasingly scarce in Barbados, but then insinuates that the correct response to this situation is for the “regulators” to permit the construction of multi-storey hotels or other buildings (higher than six or seven storeys) on the remaining areas of available beachfront property!
Well, I would like to totally disagree with the position of the editorial-writer, and I would like to suggest that the diametrically opposite position that I hold is actually what in the best long term interest of Barbados!
My position is that there are already too many hotels and other buildings constructed on the beaches of Barbados,and that the time has come for our nation to pause and to seriously rethink this policy of permitting the construction of hotels and other permanent structures on our beaches — particularly on those beaches that qualify as truly the most outstanding and beautiful beaches or beachfront areas of our country .
As we are all aware, Barbados’ number one industry is tourism, and our number one tourism attraction is the beautiful beaches of our country! Well, isn’t it a fact that we have done serious damage to the natural beauty of a vast number of the most outstanding and prized beaches of our country by permitting the construction of hotels and other buildings on these beaches?
Now, the mile long “Durban beach” in Durban, South Africa is reputed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Do you know how many hotels are built on Durban beach? Not a single one! All of the hotels are located on the land side of the Durban coastal highway!
The same is true of the world famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Indeed, even Miami beach in Florida has a fairly generous setback limitation from the coast, with minimal tourism construction being permitted on the beach side of the coastal highway.
As a matter of fact, many countries have prohibited the construction of hotels on their most prized beaches, and several countries have imposed regulations that severely restrict the height of hotels, whether such hotels are located on the beach or on the land-side of the coastal highway!
Aren’t these policy positions that Barbados would do well to seriously contemplate?
Do we really want to see a Barbados in which our prized beachfront areas are inundated with giant 15 storey hotels?
Are tourists attracted to Barbados because of ultra-modern multi storey American-style hotels? Or isn’t it, rather, that they have an interest in experiencing the unique culture, heritage, social ambience and charm of Barbados and Barbadians? (And in answering this question, please refer to the fact that the single most popular tourist attraction in Barbados is the Oistins Fish Fry!)
I, for one, honestly believe that Barbados has had its fill of hotels on its most prized and popular beaches, and also its fill of foreign-owned hotels!
If it were left up to me, future tourism development in Barbados would feature and be based upon locally owned hotels and guest houses that fit snugly into our environment, and that radiate the unique hospitality, culture and charm of Barbados and Barbadians. That , to me, is what real development is all about– Barbadians doing for self and owning the most precious resources of their own country.
These views might differ from those of the Nation’s editorial-writer, but I can assure him or her that they are not based on a desire to “unfair” anyone, nor on “parochial or political motives”. Rather, they derive form a desire to provoke new thinking on what is in the best long term interest of the one nation that we all share in common.