Swimming freely wherever there is a beach is a right Barbadians treasure. It is a right they have maintained through all there development and which it appears they are not at all willing to give up even if it means losing 500 jobs.
As quickly as Sandals boss Butch Stewart expressed his serious interest in acquiring the 30 Acre Almond Beach Village Hotel in St Peter, Barbados, Barbadians begun to raise their concerns about “Stewart’s inevitable intention to privatize their beaches.” Stewart has maintained that he has absolutely no plans of the sort.
Serious Concerns Raised
Today’s Editorial in the Barbados Nation Newspaper is dead on the subject. While recognizing the great economic value in “keeping [the] Almond hope alive,” the Editorial raised the concern of Stewart’s private beach reputation.
Is Barbadian society ready to welcome the private beach attraction that characterizes Mr Stewart’s successful Sandals brand and other resorts in neighbouring tourism destinations?
Going further, the Editorial points out that the issue of losing beach access is one that has been known to cause real projects to stall.
Barbadians are sensitive about beach access. The very question of locals losing the right to enjoy the island’s beaches was at the root of the recent controversy over a proposed tourism development at the Skeete’s Bay-Culpepper area in St Philip.
Finally the Editorial ended by calling on the government and private sector to ensure the issue is dealt with before it becomes a “national problem.”
It is therefore important that those involved in any future sale of Almond Beach Village, private sector and Government, stress this vexing issue of proper beach access – not a dark and lonely track – so as not to create a later national problem while attempting to solve the urgent and immediate one.
Speaking in a major Starbroek News interview on Sunday, prior to the publication of the Nation’s Editorial, Stewart rubbished the private beach rumours.
First of all, that is rumour. Nothing could be further from the truth. I mean we operate in Antigua; the beach is not private; St Lucia is not private; the Bahamas is not private; Jamaica is not private. So nothing could be further from the truth…That’s all nonsense!
Did He Just Say Jamaica ?
Frankly speaking about our lost, sold and barely existent access to our beaches in Jamaica may not help Stewart’s case. Did he really say Jamaica? Yes, and he is correct, the beaches are not private per se –The Nation’s Editorial puts it best:
“those who would have travelled and seen the brand in other countries would know that while the beaches are not officially private, access is extremely prohibitive.”
I have lived in Barbados and much to my amazement; you can actually walk on any beach at any time of day or night – hotel or no hotel. There is no wall, no border, no barricade, no security guard patrolling the beach lines to ensure you not enter the premises.
Can This Really Be A Deal-Breaker?
I hope not. Seriously, it is very important for Barbadians to remember Jamaica is not Barbados.
Jamaicans, unfortunately, have never valued their beach access enough to ensure that their governments not sell it. Not only are hotel beaches virtually private, but almost all the best beaches in the country are privately owned by the government (citizens have to pay to use them). So, essentially, whether right or wrong, private beaches have never been a significant outrage in Jamaica.
Barbados’ culture is different however and has always been so. This is known and the tourism industry has functioned well with this policy. I see no reason therefore, why Stewart would not want to conform, especially recognizing the seriousness of the issue to the Barbadian people.