Acting Prime Minister, Richard Sealy, unveiling the plaque at the gala opening of the Country Club at Apes Hill Club on Saturday, while businessman, Sir Charles Williams looks on. (A.Miller/BGIS)

Acting Prime Minister Richard Sealy has given The Country Club at Apes Hill Club the thumbs up, saying such projects make our tourism destination different.

Mr. Sealy, who is also the Minister of Tourism, made the comments over the weekend while delivering remarks at the Gala Opening of The Country Club at Apes Hill Club.

The Acting Prime Minister said Barbados has a comparative advantage to other destinations globally. He added that the World Travel and Tourism Council, in its Competitiveness Index, ranks Barbados number one in the Caribbean, and  seven in the western hemisphere.

“That is because you don’t see facilities like this all over [the world]…. When you are trying to market this destination in this very competitive environment, because everybody is into tourism now in all parts of the world, you have to have things that make a difference and this is something that makes a difference,” he stated. He surmised that this project was vital in sustaining what tourism officials here were trying to do.

Mr. Sealy noted that tourism records were set when 631,000 persons visited the country in 2016 and 592,000 in 2015. “And 2017 will be a couple percentage points on top of 2016, so we are going in the right direction,” he stressed.

He pointed out that increased airlift and arrivals were good, but could not be sustained if there was no investment in quality product. “By product we don’t only mean hotel rooms… but also things for the visitors to do and in the investment opportunities so that they can embark on a long term relationship with Barbados, because that also differentiates us as a destination.

“People may start out being a normal tourist but eventually they decide to invest and have a home away from home and therefore we have to continue to make sure that projects like this continue to be a reality,” he insisted.

The Acting Prime Minister said he did not share the view that people should be pessimistic about what was happening. “Levels of confidence are up; investments indeed in projects like this are up; our arrivals are up; the airlift capacity is up; all of the indicators are suggesting that we are in a very positive place,” he stated.

During his remarks, he disclosed that the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. would be offering, for the first time, a golf package in 2017. He pointed out that between May and October visitors would be able to pay a fee and use three golf courses.

He underscored the importance of golf, saying that for too long, it had been seen as an appendage to the tourism offerings.

Mr. Sealy saluted Sir Charles Williams for his “stick-to-itiveness”, saying his commitment was evident when he stayed the course with the project despite a difficult global economy in 2009.

Managing Director of Apes Hill Club, Donovan Bagwell, and Sir Charles spoke during the evening. Republic Bank and the NIS Scheme also assisted in facilitating the project.

The Country Club is described as the first of its kind in Barbados and the hub of activity at Apes Hill Club. It offers restaurant, golf shop and facilities, locker rooms, a gym, a treatment room, and two swimming pools. Astro turf tennis courts also surround the Country Club.

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