|The newest block at Almond Beach Village Resort|
In yet another sign that all is not well in the tourism business despite the recent upbeat forecasts on Barbados tourism coming from the Central Bank, the Ministry of Tourism and the media which could all be just another smokescreen to cover up the dire reality, rumours circulating in Speightstown are that one of the major players on the west coast is about to close up shop. There is no question that Almonds Resorts is struggling terribly, particularly its flagship property in Haywood, St. Peter - Almond Beach Village. At what supposedly is the height of the tourist (winter) season ABV just had a major staff layoff and occupancy is hovering around 300 at a property accustomed to hosting well over a thousand guests at this time of year - even having to walk some customers next door to Port St. Charles and other nearby hotels when business was really booming.
Lately they have had problems paying staff (on time) and settling debts with suppliers. There is a rumour that they have stopped taking bookings and that the hotel will shortly be closed for renovations. Why you would want to do something like that at the height of the season boggles the mind. However, we do know that the owners (the Trinidadian firm Neal & Massey) are in town and the fireworks have begun. One rumour is that CEO Ralph Taylor (who is also chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority) has already been "reassigned," whatever that means. Apparently, he is being blamed for under-performing properties in St. Lucia (particularly Almond Smugglers Cove) and stretching the company too thin with the acquisition of the Casuarina Hotel on the south coast which some have described as a "money pit."
People who have been watching Almond Beach Village over the years are saying they have never seen things there looking so dreadful and have concluded that some kind of shutdown is imminent. The Trinidadians are still in their slash and burn mood having recently axed Warrens Motors from the portfolio of companies (including Almond Beach Resorts) which they acquired a few years ago with their purchase of Barbados Shipping & Trading. A sale of ABV or indeed all Almond resorts could be in the works. The rumour mill is turning and the truth must come out soon or this can begin to damage the Barbados brand which is something the Trinidadians might not care about - at least not as much as Bajans.