Harlequin answers detractors – Barbados Construction is Ongoing, Buccament Bay staff paid and UK Online rescind story

It’s no joke, say Harlequin and people no longer think of a jester in a patterned leotard – they’re immediately considering a Resorts project which has the interests of Bajan, British and Caribbean internet readers.

Christopher John at the former Allamanda resort in Hastings, Christ Church

Certain websites used to exist which gave their own opinion of the overall tourism concept which were not flattering, but they have since disappeared – why? British online dailies carried stories on Harlequin which looked at capital inflows while a Vincentian blogger, now a mainstream journalist who speaks Taiwanese, made claims of hotel workers having salary woes – is it accurate?

{L to R} Michael Woodroffe and David Campion (yes, champion without an H, that’s why he joined Harlequin to fulfill the spelling LOL)

This is why when Bajan Reporter was invited to inspect Christ Church and St Philip sites we jumped at the chance, having reviewed all the media stories as usual we look at what was NOT said and try to fill you in… Even when Garrett Ronan, the Vice President of Harlequin’s Hotels & Resorts was available for a cortege of local media to ask anything at all – when you browse the other places, all they carried was ‘more jobs coming.’ However any good Taliban will let you know; “HAVE FAITH IN ALLAH, BUT TIE YOUR CAMELS!

The main activity has been seaside rather than facing Esso or Hastings Plaza inland side, according to Harlequin officials

David Campion is the Development Director for Harlequin, when he spoke of Merricks, he said it will cost $900 million to create and yet the resort is built where swimming by the sea is unsafe, it spoke of certain things… I asked if the water activities are inland then why continue building?

What you see here under the concrete is the high density styrofoam whoch claps together like Lego blocks, it allows for better insulation between rooms and when air conditioning costs are down this should mean a higher quality resort at a better price, right?

The VP stepped in, Mr Ronan stated there are many areas in the world which have superb hotels and villas yet you would not dream of swimming, such as places in Greece or Mexico, what sells is the view in this case – it was also added many surveys indicate when people go abroad the first two days are on the beach while the balance of the stay is spent either at the resort or shopping.

Knowing I was heading for a construction tour, I wore sneakers and jeans, this reporter here chose … um, slippers?

My next concern is since Golf Resorts are high maintenance, especially in maintaining lawns and using water, how environmentally friendly is this for St Lucia? Campion stated the reason Merricks and H Barbados (formerly Allamanda and before that Woodville) are taking longer is because of using green methods for construction which means more EIA’s and working with Town & Country planning for all due diligence, as for keeping the lawns fresh along the St Lucian links? The Development Director says Maquis will have a number of rainwater retention lagoons where they will draw from those resources to feed the grass for the golfing.

He added the careful planning has made it seem as though Harlequin’s progress as inert, but in fact it proceeds apace {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Campion told the press conference during the site visits that by maintaining Allamanda’s original structure and adding to its foundation, and the work on Merricks in ensuring when rooms use air conditioning they do not waste electricity, means longer construction than using standard processes which are not as energy efficient.

Christopher John is responsible for realising the architectural plans of the Hastings project, and he outlined what some of the challenges were which explain why it seemed inactivity abounded for the public at large {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

John stated since most of the work was towards the seaside and not inland it is only natural for people to assume nothing’s happening but since the Christ Church  complex is having one area for guests, another for restaurants and still a next place for the kitchens and laundries to handle the hotel, then careful planning and precise building in conjunction with awaiting approval from Town & Country has not made the project a swift one.

VP Ronan indicated they expect both Merricks and H Barbados to be complete for August 2013 which means a chance to capitalise on the coming Winter/Christmas that year to recoup costs.

Garrett Ronan, VP of Hotels & Resorts, fielding questions from CBC, Nation, B’dos Today, Advocate and yours truly!

The love of money – according to Timothy in the Bible – can make many folk do strange things, and many accusations have been levelled at Harlequin… Kenton Chance, in his i-Witness News, which is now an archive since he’s working with Searchlight Newspaper in St Vincent, made a claim that Buccament Bay workers were ready to strike for wages. Buccament Bay is Harlequin’s Grenadines project and the claim of monies due was vehemently supported by Kingstown’s Opposition.

Merricks crew sorting parts for final installation

So we opened the topic of finances and here’s what Harlequin’s VP had to say {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

There are 300 employees at Buccament and there’s construction continuing at the resort involving sub-contractors who have their staff and when projects to complete Buccament do not meet standards then payment is only forthcoming once the completion meets Harlequin’s standards. 

British journalism both last year and this year has taken a few blows due to the forced extinction of News Of The World and phone-hacking probes, however even at what can be deemed a more parochial level, UK press seems to have taken more of a hit… This is based on when Bajan Reporter asked VP Ronan about the Echo who claimed a huge group of investors were seeking refunds {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Elements of the British item have been retracted, at the same time, Harlequin continues to meet on a regular basis with Investors since dealing with 6,000 people is going to create differences along the way. In moving forward and to reduce speculation, Harlequin plans on having regular meetings with the media so as to provide transparency in their operations.

This naturally led to what about the disappearance of certain websites who carried obvious agendas, while Ronan wished to be forthcoming he had to gauge his response carefully since there are legal complications {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

 The matter of the websites will soon be brought before local Magistrates, as it’s due to be settled via the Courts, there’s not much Harlequin can state for now…

It was then where the reporters went by bus to both Hastings and St Philip to review the progress, here’s a video digest of the Merricks visit;-

Harlequin plans for showers at Merricks to be designed where one has a view which seems like you’re in a garden yet you still have privacy – this is a view from its very early stages

The Vice President says there are plans to gain a cut of Barbados’ conference pie once Merricks is fully functional {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Since the St Philip facility will have 1,000 units then the long-term goal is to have a seminar capacity for 500 people and create a locale away from the regular conferences.

The projections for Harlequin on becoming reality appear impressive – a fleet of 9-seater Piper Chieftains to ferry guests between resorts; marketing outreach not only for Britons but offices in Rome, Paris, Berlin and Moscow; media appearances in both the New York Times and on Britain’s Got Talent as well as Las Vegas trade shows for this genre…

David Campion in St Philip explaining how Merricks will be completed

The construction for the hotels is almost Jules Verne-like… They use high density styrofoam as a means of insulation for rooms to cool faster yet retain heat at night; photo voltaics – that’s solar energy for you and me – to reduce electricity expenses by 85% and thrust to keep local manufacturers in operation by using their products as a means of reducing shipping, which in turn means less to recoup from expenditure outlays. Links throughout this article speak to Harlequin’s corporate responsibility in both Castries and here in Barbados.

Why is this man loafing and posing instead of doing some WORK? (I know many will agree with that, but not in the context I just joked about)

It appears Harlequin had some turbulence and is trying to gain cruising altitude, but this does not mean Bajan Reporter will not continue to probe, ask and move with a parachute! 😉

2 Responses

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  1. The real question is what has Harlequin done with all the money they have taken in deposits from trusting purchasers? If it’s in the bank somewhere, it is not apparent from the Harlequin accounts.
    If they have spent it on agents fees and publicity etc., where is the money to build out the units?

  2. Dear Mr Bourne

    The following is a list of questions that was originally posted on one of the “anti” sites. I think many people would be interested to get Harlequin’s responses to these – but documentary back-up would be needed rather than the usual verbal assurances and promises that never quite seem to reflect the actualité. It would be great for Harlequin to provide some positive reassurance to their investors – current and potential – and to prove the naysayers wrong.

    Would you be willing to raise these with Mr Ronan? If so, I’d love to see the replies.

    1. Based on the RLB Red Book, posted on the Harlecon site, the income that each investor will receive is a tiny fraction of what your forecasts show. Can you please explain the huge difference between the income you and your agents say will be received, and that shown in a formal report by a reputable firm of Chartered Surveyors.

    2. You’ve publicly stated that you have many (up to 15) offers of commercial funding. Please provide proof of this; I accept that publishing copies of offer letters will be commercially sensitive, so a letter from a reputable English law firm, confirming that they have had sight of the offers, that there are no unusual or onerous conditions and that the offers are current, will suffice. If you can’t/won’t do this, please say why.

    3. You’ve sold land in Jamaica and Brazil that you don’t own.

    a. What has happened to the money raised from these sales?

    b. When will you refund purchasers for properties that now will never be built?

    4. The early contracts for the sale of Merricks were entered into by Merricks Resort Ltd, a company registered in St Vincent & the Grenadines. That company never owned Merricks, yet you signed contracts saying that it was selling a freehold interest in the property. Please explain on what possible basis such contracts can be valid.

    5. Buccament Bay has now been open for over a year (and over six months since the full launch in April 2011).

    a. Have any of the investor contracts for the units that are now open been completed?

    b. If not, why not?

    c. Are any of the investors now being paid their 10% guaranteed returns?

    d. How much is Buccament Bay being subsidised each month? Mark Sawkins claimed $1M – is that about right?

    e. How is “50% net room rate” defined?

    6. With Oasis now not being the hotel operator, how can investors be sure that there is real, genuine transparency regarding operating income on which they will be reliant?

    7. A few months ago, you were selling two Quin or “H” hotels in Barbados. It now seems to be only one, the old Allameda. This has around 50 rooms, yet your agents claim that it will have 70. Where is the extra space coming from?

    8. Where has the funding come from to support Harlequin Air?

    9. The 2010 accounts for Harlequin Management Services (South East) Ltd were heavily qualified by the auditors, BDO. Why were you unable to provide enough information regarding related party transactions to satisfy the auditors?

    10. In those accounts, it is said by your wife and son that around £5m is owed by Harlequin Properties (Caribbean) Ltd to Harlequin Management Services (South East) Ltd. As Harlequin Management Services (South East) Ltd hasn’t got that kind of reserves, and never has had, this funding can only have come from purchaser monies. Can you either confirm that this is the case or, alternatively, identify where it has come from?

    11. Will income from each unit be streamed directly to the owner, or is income from units of the same class/type being pooled?

    12. There is concern that you don’t have planning consent and a Crown lease for the building works on the beach/foreshore area at Buccament Bay. Please publish these to allay such concerns, or explain why you refuse to do so.

    13. At the ground breaking ceremony for Merricks in September 2010, you promised that work would begin in October 2010. To date, nothing has been done there. Why? I know that you have recently stated that work will commence, but what is the reason for a delay of over a year?

    14. Your press release rubbishes the various claims on Harlecon, yet has not addressed any of the fundamental accusations.

    a. Are the emails reproduced there genuine extracts from emails you/your company have sent/received?

    b. Is the RLB Red Book the real thing?

    15. Do you have full, unequivocal planning permission for the Marquis Estate? Please provide proof of this if the answer is yes.

    16. There is a legal obligation for Harlequin Properties (SVG) Ltd to produce audited accounts each year. None have been filed since those for the period to 30 April 2007.

    a. Why?

    b. When will your legal obligations be brought up to date?

    17. The newsletters on your site seem to lack a degree of honesty. For example, in Issue 1, on page 4 we are told that 60% of accommodation at Buccament Bay is complete. That is not true even now, so how can it possibly have been true then?

    And if you can’t even be honest on simple, factual matters such as this, why should anyone ever believe a word you say?

    Further examples:

    • On page 5 there is confirmation that Two Rivers is 90% sold out and will open in summer 2011. How far has that development has progressed?

    • Page 6 informs us that Merricks will be open for Christmas 2012. How far along has that development gone since then? A “show village” is hardly an adequate substitute for the resort itself.

    • Issue 2 (July 2008) tells us of the value that Oasis Resorts and Hotels, Globalia and AirEuropa bring as partners in running the resorts. They bring all their experience and travel industry clout. Where are they now?

    • Issue 3 (Oct 2008) tells us about the excellent exit strategy to resell your unit. Has anyone sold one at a real profit after taking into account all costs, commissions, etc?

    • Page 11 tells us that Trader Vic’s restaurant will be open at the Two Rivers Resort in summer 2009. Again, clearly untrue. So why say it?

    • Issue 4 (May 2009) tells us of the launch of Harlequin Hotels and Resorts. Much less made of Oasis in this issue. Page 4 tells us that the Hideaway at Las Canas will be open at the end of 2010. Anyone stayed there yet?

    • Issue 7 (October 2010) assures us that the Pearl Galleon is shortly set to arrive at Buccament Bay. Where is it?

    18. Why has issue 6 of your newsletter disappeared from your website?

    19. Where has the funding come from to support Harlequin Hotels & Resorts? I ask as Harlequin’s various websites say only that investor monies may be used to produce such as a hotel manual, and not to subsidise a loss-making company.

    20. Have you paid in full for all the land you are selling or have you entered into any type of deferred or instalment payment arrangement, whether by way of a deed of mortgage or in any other way?

    21. Do you have full funding in place to construct all resorts as sold to date?

    22. Have you got all tax concessions on all resorts reduced to writing and formally agreed with each government?

    23. What management, maintenance and other charges will you be levying on purchasers of units?

    24. What are the issues surrounding Jamaica:

    a. why has the project not gone ahead?

    b. why was it never on your website?

    25. Did you ever sell any properties on a resort in Grenada?

    a. If yes, have full refunds been made to all the purchasers?

    b. If not, why not?

    27. What do you say about your agents claiming that there will be Gary Player golf courses and such like built on your other resorts?

    28. What proportion of a purchaser deposit is retained by Harlequin for payments to agents etc.?

    29. What proportion of each £1 taken as a deposit is actually used to buy the land the resort will be on and to pay for building costs?


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