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Letter: St Vincent Island doesn't need any more hotel rooms
Published on May 4, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Buccament Bay Resort, shuttered in December 2016, may never re-open given its huge debts and multiplicity of overlapping creditors

Dear Sir:

In a press conference on February 20, 2017, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), the Honourable Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, again urged the private sector to invest in building more hotel capacity on the mainland (“I want to say to the hotels, please, get up and be activist”) now that Argyle International Airport (AIA) is finally operational, a plea other government officials have repeatedly made in the past.

Once again, this entreaty is bound to fall on deaf ears. This may be why the prime minister announced in his 2017 budget address that he had secured Cabinet approval on January 18, “… to build a 250-room hotel in St Vincent, through the instrumentality of at least two state agencies, and to engage a company with a global brand to market and manage it,” a desperate grasp at the ruinous socialist straws that even Cuba is tentatively beginning to release and which devastated the Jamaican tourist industry when the nationalization of foreign hotels and other entities beguiled Michael Manley during the 1970s.

In previous essays (see numbers 33 and 36 below), I estimated that roughly 20,000 tourist and other visitors from around the world annually stay in various commercial establishments – resorts, hotels, apartments, guesthouses, and private homes -- on SVI. Given that our Tourism Authority does not publish a comprehensive breakdown of these figures, I was forced to extrapolate that about 6,500 of these visitors arrive here from distant locales outside the Caribbean. These are exactly the type of tourists AIA was built to attract.

Even if I inadvertently low-balled the 6,500 overseas tourist arrival figure, and the actual number is 50 percent higher at 10,000, these visitors could be accommodated easily by our existing mainland hotel stock of 750 rooms (which includes the shuttered Buccament Bay Resort listed on its Internet site as “temporarily closed and plan[ning] to re-open in spring 2017 after refurbishment”), most of them either closed or with few North American and European guests five months of the year.

At the same press conference, the prime minister said that the entire nation of SVG (i.e., SVI plus the Grenadines) has 2,200 hotel rooms and that these have an annual occupancy rate of 40-50 percent, a figure well below the 60-67 percent Caribbean average. Whatever the separate mainland rate, it is surely much lower than in the much more popular Grenadines. My best guess, partly grounded on personal observation and party on the large number of mainland hotels that have closed, are for sale, or have repeatedly changed hands over the years, is that SVI has an annual hotel room occupancy rate of around 30 percent.

Clearly, our veteran small hotel owners realize that only more tourists can stimulate more rooms, not the other way around. Rather than being “risk adverse,” as the prime minister called them at the same press conference, or “traditionally … very cautious,” as ill-informed accountant Brian Glasgow opined two years ago, our business class, including our hoteliers, are hard-nosed entrepreneurs who know how quickly our tiny, cash strapped, small growth, and limited opportunity economy can wipe out reckless expansion, as Dr Gonsalves’ cousin, Ken Boyea, recently learned (see essay number 8 below), and as legions of other bankrupted businessmen, including owners of failed guesthouse and small hotels, have learned for years.

Our hospitality room numbers support these assertions. Based on an average two-week holiday stay by two guests in the same room, a 30 percent occupancy rate would translate into 11,700 guests using the following formula: 750 rooms x 2 guests per room x 26 two-week period x 0.3 occupancy rate). Even if all existing rooms were continuously occupied by two people staying for two weeks, this would require 39,000 guests (750 rooms x 2 people x 26 two-week blocks), or double the present number.

What this means is that even if the 10,000 number of extra-Caribbean holiday visitors explodes to 30,000 over the next few years because of AIA – a “veritable miracle” even beyond the alleged supernatural powers of this prime minister – and assuming the same figure for hotel visitors from other Caribbean countries (because they would continue to arrive on the mainland by regional aircraft or boat), our existing room stock could house them at any reasonable occupancy rate.

What is missing from these projections of increased holiday visitors is the motivation for their visit to our tourism-challenged mainland, namely, the appealing features that would draw them to SVI rather than to other places like, say, miniscule but luxurious and captivating Anguilla (35 square miles, or 90 sq km, and a population of only 15,000 people), a formerly dirt-poor island with scant traditional resources that now attracts over three times more overnight tourists than we do (not to mention thousands more cruise ship passengers and yachters) without an international airport.

The not-so-secret tropical holiday fact is that Anguilla more than compensates for the so-called “travel inconvenience” of no international airport -- the bogus justification for the building of stillborn AIA -- with its 33 pristine white sand beaches.

More problematic for our long-term development is that magically tripling our new visitors to 30,000 a year -- the original 2013 prediction of tourism minister, Cecil McKie – even without the suitable attractions, would still not make AIA a value-added national project, given the looming interest payments on its EC$400 million debt and EC$20 million annual operating cost.

More disconcerting still is Minister McKie’s bare-faced denial of his three-fold increase in holiday arrivals claim and replacement of this figure by a World Bank estimate that AIA would see visitor arrivals increase by a mere ten percent within the first three years of its operation.

If this World Bank estimate is accurate (I have been unable to determine its primary source), this would be further proof that building AIA was a huge waste of money we had to borrow, but could never repay, exacerbated by years of lost opportunities for more fruitful development we could never reclaim.


This is the 52nd in a series of essays on the AIA folly. My other AIA essays are listed below:

1. Get ready for a November election in St Vincent and the Grenadines! But which November?
2. Lessons for Argyle International Airport from Canada's Montreal-Mirabel International Airport
3. Lessons for Argyle International Airport from the cruise ship industry
4. Lessons from Target Canada for Argyle International Airport in St Vincent
5. Lessons from Trinidad and Tobago for Argyle International Airport
6. The dark side of tourism: Lessons for Argyle Airport
7. Why Argyle won't fly: Lessons from Dominica
8. Ken Boyea and the Phantom City at Arnos Vale
9. Airport envy Vincie-style
10. Fully realising our country's tourism potential
11. Airport without a cause
12. The unnatural place for an international airport
13. The Potemkin Folly at Argyle
14. False patriotism and deceitful promises at Argyle
15. Airport politics and betrayal Vincie-style
16. Phony airport completion election promises, Vincie-style
17. Is Argyle International Airport really a ‘huge game-changer for us’?
18. Has the cat got your tongue, prime minister?
19. More proof that Argyle won't fly
20. Our very own Vincentian cargo cult at Argyle
21. The missing Argyle Airport feasibility studies
22. The world's four most amazing abandoned airports
23. Farming, fishing, and foolish talk about Argyle International Airport
24. Argyle Airport amateur hour
25. St Vincent's place in the world of travel
26. Investing in St Vincent's tourism industry
27. The Argyle Airport Prophecy: What the numbers say
28. Did the IMF drink the Comrade's Kool-Aid?
29. Why Qatar? Why St Vincent and the Grenadines?
30. Foolish words about Argyle International Airport
31. 'If I come, you will build it': Lessons from the Maldives for Argyle International Airport
32. City lessons for Argyle International Airport
33. Who really lands at Arnos Vale?
34. No ticky, no washy - Argyle-style
35. We have met the Vincentian tourism enemy and he is us
36. Hotel St Vincent 
37. Why St Vincent Island has so few tourists
38. Why Bequia is a gem of the Antilles
39. Why seeing is believing in the Caribbean tourism industry
40. St Vincent's cruise ship numbers are much lower than we think
41. Lessons from Barbados for Argyle Airport
42. Cuba's tourism rollercoaster: Lessons for Argyle Airport
43. What the world teaches Black Sands Resort and Villas
44. Not all Argyle airport critics are 'internet crazies'
45. Why Roraima Airways? Lessons for Argyle airport
46. The print media's take on the opening of Argyle International Airport
47. Our Argyle International Airport 'veritable miracle'
48. The Argyle airport 'poppy show' opening
49. St Vincent's 2016 tourism numbers are nothing to brag about
50. Going forward or moonwalking? Lessons for Argyle International Airport
51. The visible hand of Adam Smith at Argyle International Airport
C. ben-David
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Here we go yet again, the Genius, knows what is best for SVG. Trying to read this article is like listening to very drunk man staggering along the side of the road, trying to speak but so incoherent.......? I lost!

C. ben-David:

Yes, g.b., we all know you are lost.


The bragging list of letters and opinions from Mr ben is overtaking the content of what he writes. He just cannot help blowing his own trumpet despite the rubbish and the cloaked attacks on the comrade.

The announcement of Rouge Air Canada landing at Argyle must have sent him into a spiral of determined lunacy to try and destroy the credibility of that deal. He will of course demand to know how much the airline is being paid.

Paying airlines is a common matter in the Caribbean, Grenada still do it after being in operation for years. Barbados was doing it up to a couple of years ago. It's part of the system to stimulate visitors and to keep the prices competitive.

All the crap that ben writes is simply wrapped up in figures and statistics to try and convince the people that he is right and everyone else is wrong. We all know that figures and statistics can be twisted and presented to prove any point you want.

Some of you will remember when C. ben-David wrote this as a comment in February 2017

"Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet (including my postings) because some 99 percent is pure bullshit".

He also wrote this as a comment

“Believe nothing of what you hear (or read), half of what you see [a lot of what you see can be fabricated], and all of what you know.”

So there it is straight from the mouth of the person who is writing with the name of a stolen identity. That alone should tell you that everything the man writes is propaganda based.

[Propaganda is "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view"]

I am not sure that C. ben-David is not someone like Peter Binose or Patrick Ferrari, trying to fool the people by pretending to be at war with Binose and in love with Ferrari.

Sandra 'what's it name' once said the way he wrote with the cattish spitefulness pointed towards him actually being a woman or more likely a woofta.

But we are all waiting for the light to be turned on as it will be eventually.

C. ben-David:

GT, kindly tell me why you and others are so absorbed with trying to discover my true identity.

Is is because you want to hurt me, perhaps even kill me, for the "crime" of free speech?

Why not just focus on the factual, logical, and interpretive errors of what I have written, something none of you have done (except for Vinciman on two occasions: (1) when I confused the identity of an old lady in SVG who owned the Kingstown Park Guest House and (2) failed to do sufficient research on the history of air travel in SVG).

I promise to stand corrected and apologize profusely about any errors I have made in these essays. So just go for it!

Who I am is of no consequence; my words and ideas are all that count.

Patrick Ferrari:

Whahappen GT? Get Comrade to Glen Jackson C. ben-David. To Edgar Cruickshank him. Ain’t that what you done threaten him with? And I didn’t see no disapproval from nobody. GT, the last thing people like you need to do is to hide behind a pen name like a yellow-belly.

Read the threat ya:


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