Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Man-Made Islands In The Caribbean Sun

Paul Altman knows about putting development ideas into action. Barbados is well known for project that bear his hallmark. Now, he has an idea to create man-made offshore islands that will give a new 'lifestyle'. Judging from the artist's impression, that vision for the project at Lime Grove will indeed be an amazing change of style. The development will have 12 commercial/retail buildings, plus 56 planned residential buildings - the first 8 townhouses - a show home to be open in Spring 2010. The Nation gives a good outline of other elements of the project. More information is also available at the Limegrove website. But, the idea of reclaiming land is bold, as is the notion of bringing in major high-end retail names.

When he spoke at yesterday's Broad Street Journal Business Breakfast, at Tamarind Cove, you could sense the suspense in the minds of the audience as he outlined his project. Two islands off the west coast, which will include a small island that has a national park as intended recreation space for locals.Admittedly, the main island and development seems geared at tourists, as a means of getting them to 'linger longer' and to part with more of their foreign exchange. But, one of my constant concerns about what I see of tourism here is that it does not seem driven enough to maximise tourists spending in a way that is consistent with the market it has set up for tourism.

Barbados is not Dubai, and should not aim to be. But Barbados needs a image make over. I personally wonder why Barbadian tourism has developed a sort of brand less image--nothing wrong with boutique hotels. But, when the market has been to target high-end tourists then they will not be attracted by faceless and nameless items of indifferent quality; they would be attracted by brands, which have a pedigree. Mr. Altman's project will have some of that with its Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and Cartier flagship stores, and a dazzling array of world renowned brands on sale in other stores. It will also try to blend in some of the historic character of the island, which is also something that should be better stressed across the island. It will be a very interesting visit to see this project in 12 months' time.


Kevin said...

Paul Altman is delusional if he thinks that some "numbers person can make this work". We would have to quarry much of St. Lucy to sufficiently fill the ocean to create his two islands.

Barbados is certainly not Dubai, and I would have thought that the reality of Dubai's debt problems and bailout would give him pause. If that country can't handle such a development how the hell can Barbados?

I predict not only will these islands never be built but also Limegrove will eventually become a mediocre development on the west coast and Louis Vuitton, Cartier and the like will not last long.

Ian Pickup said...

I agree with Kelvin, and I disagree with you, Dennis, over the need for major brand hotels. The small, boutique style hotel that is offered on the west coast is what sets Barbados apart from the dreadful resorts in places like Cancun and many other places. The problem is that Barbados has failed to promote this uniqueness and intimacy as part of its brand. With Four Seasons and the Hilton, as well as a Marriott Courtyard, we will have enough international brands. Finally, I fail to see anything at all in the Lime Grove development that blends in with the historical nature of the island, and especially with Holetown, which will once and for all lose it's village feeling. Like Kelvin i think that Louis Vuitton, etc. will not be long in finding out that Holetown is not Dubai, or Shanghai, where they are currently highly successful. For the country's sake, I hope that I'm wrong.

Dennis Jones said...


For clarity, I did not say anything about brand name hotels (I said 'nothing wrong with boutique hotels'), but said that Barbados was brand less. You have put it that the Barbados "failed to promote this uniqueness and intimacy as part of its brand"; I agree and I don't fully understand why except to deduce that no one had a strategy in mind, so there was no agreement of what ought to be promoted.

I don't think Limegrove is meant to make Barbados into Dubai except through some similarity that comes from land reclamation.

On blending historical character, I think this may be less of a feature in Holetown than could be the case elsewhere through redevelopment, which was a separate point Mr. Altman stressed.

Kevin said...

We do have some high end brands that fit with our image: Fairmont, Hilton, soon to be Four Seasons. And we have created brands that reflect the image we desire: Crane, Sandy Lane, Colony Club.

I think that this has contributed to our past success in tourism and what Dennis perceives as brandless is perhaps a reflection of the subtle nature of our tourism product.

You do make a valid point Dennis in so far as attracting those not familiar with our unique and subtle brand. But there is a balance to be struck, and I think the addition of Four Seasons will suffice - it fits the image that we seems to want so well.

However, I still firmly believe that Louis Vuitton, etc will fail. These wealthy people are here on holiday to relax, enjoy the beach, the golf, the polo etc. While they may have to buy some one-off things for unexpected events or in place of forgotten items, why on earth would they want to come to Barbados to shop when they already go to LV and Cartier in Paris and Ralph Lauren in Manhatten? The answer is that they don't and won't.

I think is being done to feed Altman's megalomaniacal ego. But at least he's employing a lot of people on the development and that goes a long way at times like these.

Jdid said...

has anyone thought about the environmental impact of adding two islands. Would seem to me it would be rather significant given the size of Bim.

I havent read all the comments but I was also wondering along with the branding thing does Barbados even have a slogan going these days. I mean I havent seen any Barbados ads in Toronto for years now but you dont even have to see a jamaican ad to recognize the music and slogan and the same almost goes for other destinations.To be honest I dont think we've done a great job marketing our product so we should consider ourselves lucky.

Dennis Jones said...


Your first comments indicated you saw no hope of success for the project: "I predict not only will these islands never be built but also Limegrove will eventually become a mediocre development on the west coast and Louis Vuitton, Cartier and the like will not last long."

Your subsequent comments suggest that Mr Altman is being egotistical. That does not make sense. He would be better off sitting on his laurels rather than sabotaging his reputation with a humongous failure of a project.

It's a pretty risky venture, and I have not discussed or heard about how it will be financed. Either way, a man is putting his reputation on the line, and for that I think he deserves respect. His prospective partners are also not in the habit of backing losers. LV, in particular have been very choosy about their associations.

I did raise the question with Mr Altman why it seemed more likely that such a project was likely to succeed now rather than earlier. It's a gamble and we'll see in a year or so if the pieces are falling well into place or not.

Sargeant said...

Jdid wrote “ I haven’t seen any Barbados ads in Toronto for years”. Marketing isn’t all ads, e.g The Toronto Star of Dec.15th, 2009 had a Travel Extra section in full colour, one of the articles featured a very whimsical story on Anthony Hunte and his garden. The article titled “Bloomin good tales” was about Mr. Hunte and his quirky sense of humour as well as the informal nature of his garden and featured two colour photos of the garden and a photo of Mr Hunte. I’ll bet that that article probably inspired more people to visit Hunte’s Garden than any ad could do.

Dennis Jones said...

'These wealthy people are here on holiday to relax, enjoy the beach, the golf, the polo etc.' [This type of tourists is not the whole market, by any stretch. The high-end retailers have in addition to this group the quite important and growing cruise market, which I think now has much less to tempt them to shed their foreign exchange. You also ignore/forget the Caricom/regional traveller, for whom access to such retailers may be an attraction, especially at duty-free prices. (Barbados, as a hub and to compete for business travellers, ought to try to maximise sales from all visitors.) In terms of pure sales, local Barbadians who can afford these goods will also have the option of making purchases locally rather than abroad.]