Safety First

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reading The Tea Leaves & Rumors At Mullins Beach

Earlier this month when the sun loungers with the cushy blue beds disappeared from the beach by the beach bar on Mullins Beach it set off alarm bells on the Internet (mostly on TripAdvisor and Barbados TravelAdvisor) that Royal Westmoreland may be pulling out of Mullins Beach. Those rumors were quickly quieted when some suggested that it probably was the end-of-summer shutdown in preparation for the start of the coming winter tourist season in December.

However, that has not quite satisfied all the speculation and rumors swirling around since Royal Westmoreland landed on Mullins Beach last year. Indeed, one new rumor gaining strength is that Royal Westmoreland is expanding on Mullins Beach rather than pulling out. That rumor surrounds the fate of the Turtle Nest beach villa next-door to the Mullins Beach Bar property. Although that property is (was) owned by Bacassa which itself is (was) building a Banyan Tree resort two miles inland at Black Bess, there is a rumor that Bacassa recently sold that villa to Royal Westmoreland for US$9 M. If that rumor pans out, it would give Royal Westmoreland more space to build the world-class beach club on Mullins Beach it has been talking about for about a year.

It would also mean that the Banyan Tree resort at Black Bess is probably in jeopardy if not already dead. Rumors to that effect first surfaced back in the late winter/early spring of this year when there was talk about a work stoppage on the project. Also, it has recently emerged that Banyan Tree is probably getting together with CLICO on the renovation and expansion of the Sam Lord’s Castle project in St. Philip on the southeast coast - which project comes with its own beachfront. Consequently, it stands to reason why the cash-strapped Bacassa might want to unload valuable assets such as Turtle Nest just as Sugar Hill did last year with the Mullins Beach Bar, the spa across the road from it, and its interests in Lancaster Plantation.

The fact that tourism related projects in Barbados are in flux should be no surprise given the current economic climate in the UK and USA our main sources not only of tourists but of equally important - development capital. Tourism projects worth billions of dollars are being shutdown and/or delayed in places like Las Vegas and South Florida because of the real estate credit crunch and the collapse or sale of major financial institutions in the USA. So what we are hearing and seeing on Mullins Beach may ultimately have more to do with Wall Street than it does with the color and thickness of the sun loungers in front of the beach bar.
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