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Chinese investment plays large role in island nation's tourism

China Daily | Updated: 2016-03-25 08:07

In many ways, the recent history of Sam Lord's Castle tells the story of tourism in Barbados today. The five-star resort was destroyed by fire in 2010, but construction has begun on a resort on the site that, when completed, will rival any other tourist destination in the world for its luxury, business and well-being facilities.

China has played an important part in its redevelopment via a $170 million preferential loan to fund the project.

It was the first major preferential loan China has made to the tourism sector in Barbados since President Xi Jinping announced in 2013 that $1.5 billion in preferential loans would be made available to the Caribbean.

China's Ambassador to Barbados Wang Ke said at the groundbreaking ceremony that the investment wrote "a new chapter in the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Barbados, making China the only country to offer large-scale preferential loans to finance infrastructure projects in Barbados".

"The hotel will play a positive role in attracting more foreign exchange income into Barbados and increasing employment. It will give the national economy a boost and enhance the competitiveness of Barbados as a high-end tourism destination," she added.

Barbados already has a well-established tourism sector but the government is determined to upgrade its facilities futher.

"Barbados is considered a mature tourism destination, so there is a lot of potential to modernize what we offer," said Stuart Layne, CEO at Barbados Tourism Investment Inc. "All our plans are designed to be sustainable so we can develop a tourism sector that is not only fit for today but also for the future."

This approach is best illustrated by the Sam Lord's Castle, which will be powered by renewable energy sources and aims to achieve platinum certification under the international Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

There are many other projects under discussion that offer significant investment opportunities.

"China and Barbados are negotiating other major projects to be funded by China's preferential loans, such as the reconstruction and expansion of Grantley Adams International Airport and the Pierhead Marina project in Bridgetown," Wang said. "We have every reason to expect a promising future of cooperation between China and Barbados."

The Pierhead Marina development would create berths for 80 superyachts, enhancing Barbados' ability to cater to the luxury market. A dedicated terminal for cruise ships is also being designed that would free up the island's main commercial port in Bridgetown by separating cruise traffic from cargo vessels.

These projects carry a potential investment value of $600 million, outlining their importance.

Barbadian Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management David Estwick said: "By separating tourist and commercial activity, both sectors will benefit."

Layne is keen to underline the scale of investment opportunities in Barbados and said the total value of projects currently under consideration is $2 billion. He also believes Barbados offers an attractive financial environment.

In particular, he highlighted the tax treatment of tourism investments and the financial incentives that allow construction expenditure and the provision of certain amenities to be offset against profits.

"There are a few countries that claim their tourism sector is an export industry, but we made legislative changes to ensure that only outputs and not inputs are taxed," he said. "I do not think there is another country that can make such a boast."

Layne said he believes the negotiations for investment in Sam Lord's Castle will prove beneficial in the future.

"We now have a blueprint for what is required," he said. "The next time around it should be far easier and quicker to address any concerns and provide all the required material."

Provided by Asia International Reports

(China Daily 03/25/2016 page10)

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