OP-Ed & Features - Saturday, April 11, 2009 10:30
Remembering Sam Lord’s Castle: the tragic fairytale of Barbados’ best hotelBy Ashmita Maharaj, Deputy Editor
Update: Sam Lord’s Castle destroyed by fire – October 20, 2010
A fire of unknown origin broke out at the historic Sam Lord’s Castle on October 20th, 2010. Reports indicate that the building was extensively destroyed, leaving only its frame. The Antillean’s original news story is below.
Here’s a fairy tale for you…
Once upon a time, Barbados was the it country for tourism in the West Indies.
Its economy was strong, its tourism product (honed from early colonial days) was the envy of other islands, and the standard of its accommodation was bar none.
That was then.
Then, as fairy tales go, I stayed in a castle in St. Philip, built by a notorious buccaneer who probably could have never had a clue that the mansion he founded on plunder could one day be one of the greatest hotels in Barbados’ stock. That castle, of course, was Sam Lord’s Castle, a 248 room mixed hotel/villa masterpiece which I and so many other ‘royals’ feel in love with.
That was the heyday of Barbados’ tourism supremacy, when a Bold & Beautiful crew filmed and stayed there, when it was not uncommon to neighbour a noted millionaire beside your immaculate seaside villa – the good days.
Nothing lasts forever, of course, and Sam Lord’s (then owned by Marriot’s) was sold to (presumably) a local company called Grants Hotels Inc. in 2001.
In short order, the quality and standards that seasoned repeat visitors grew accustomed to had gone, the Castle’s debt grew and its coup de grace was its sale to the CLICO Group of Companies in 2005.
The rest, as they say, is history and photos speak louder than words:
That video was yesterday. Let’s rewind to 2005…
Sam Lord’s Castle is set to arise from the ashes of bankruptcy and a two-year closure to once again become one of Barbados’ top hotel properties.
When the transformation of the famous property is complete, it will be one of this island’s largest hotel facilities.
The Sunday Sun has learnt that the 248-room facility would be transformed into a 650-room property – 450 hotel rooms and 200 condos – as part of the $54 million facelift for the historic St Philip hotel.
Leroy Parris, chairman of Clico Holdings Barbados Limited, the company buying the debt-strapped Sam Lord’s property, confirmed the upgrade and said discussions were ongoing to secure international branding for the property through a North American hotel chain¹.
That hasn’t happened yet.
Clico Holdings (Barbados) Ltd’s new Sam Lord’s Castle hotel and condominium venture could be replicated in the rest of the eastern Caribbean if it is a success. This was stated by Leroy Parris, executive chairman of the insurance and finance group, as he spoke at a Press conference held [in 2006] to introduce a new line of Clico insurance products.
The story continues…
During the question-and-answer period, Parris said he had a “tourism vision” for Clico, but was keeping it “close to his chest” until he had the opportunity to discuss it with executives from Trinidadian parent company CL Financial Ltd².
CL Financial Ltd?
Isn’t Clico Holdings (Barbados) “separate and distinct” from its parent company CL Financial in Trinidad³? The recent drama and PR response coming out of Barbados says as much, yet one can’t help but to wonder if the failed restoration of Sam Lord’s Castle thus far speaks to a cash issue at home. Some will recall that there was even speculation that Sam Lord’s may be ready for Cricket World Cup 2007, which gives an idea of just how long the Castle was slated to be redeveloped.
Given that Clico touts the Castle among its high value assets which can be easily liquidated if need be, it takes little to imagine that it would not be very sagacious at this time to touch Sam Lord’s if liquidity issues necessitate its future sale by Clico. That said, to be fair, Mr. Parris recently said that Sam Lord’s Castle’s redevelopment is “still on stream”, albeit with no definite timeline and during intense questioning about whether Clico (Barbados) was facing a financial crisis.
I respectfully digress, and take Mr. Parris’ guarantee at face value.
Loving Sam Lord’s Castle as much as I and my fellow guests did, the watch and wait period seems like forever. Indeed, the longer that the Castle remains in ruin will not only be a shame to its legacy and the Barbados tourism product that was, it will also stand as a blight on Clico’s fiscal image at a time when it could ill afford any hint of financial distress.
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