Business magnate Ralph Bizzy Williams is questioning the level of respect which authorities here have for local entrepreneurs, after the management of Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) reportedly reneged on a deal with his wife, Shelly, that could cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At the end of December last year, Shelly, the founder and managing director of Platinum Services Limited, took over the porter services at GAIA and launched Platinum Airport porter baggage service.
However, following an investment of about $20,000 to refurbish and transform the old minimart at the airport into an air conditioned lounge to accommodate the red caps, their luggage trollies and other staff and custodians who offer luxury airport services, she was told by GAIA she would have to relocate.
Addressing a special awards ceremony at the airport today for red caps who had completed a one-week training workshop, Bizzy expressed disappointment that after investing thousands of dollars his wife was forced to move.
“She decided that after being given permission to use the place you have downstairs to go ahead and make it the nicest it could be, hoping that it could stay for a while. But as it turns out GAIA has assigned another place, which she is now having to build out again and it is not cheap to do these things,” he said.
Insisting he was not complaining, a teary-eyed Williams, who was speaking on behalf of his wife who is currently in the United States on business, said he was hoping that things would work out in the end.
“We understand you have to follow the rules, but you know, I think entrepreneurs in Barbados sometimes aren’t recognized for what they really can do. In the case of this contract that my wife won, if anybody believe this thing was done to make her a load of money, forget about it right way because the uniforms you folks are wearing, she bought them, she went out and managed to sell the branding on them.
“You know that GAIA gets 50 per cent of every cent she earns – that is before paying for the accountants and the management and the rest of it? Now the space that you are going to be allocated, that is $80,000 a year in rent or 26 [plus] . . . per cent of the gross, not the profit. So this is a very good deal for GAIA. I hope it will turn out good for my wife, but I certainly can’t understand how she can make a profit from it,” he explained.
Williams did not reveal the site of the new location, nor when the relocation would take place.
However, the passionate businessman told the porters, who officials are referring to as ‘frontline ambassadors’ in light of the training and expectations, that his wife was prepared to work with them to the end to help improve the visitor experience.
“She will persist and she will do the best she can for you all and she will represent your interest to the best that she possibly can. All she expects in return is for you all, the frontline ambassadors, to wow the visitors to Barbados from the time they land . . . .There is no second opportunity to make a first impression,” the businessman said.
Adding that his wife wanted to see the best for the more than 40 employees, Williams said she was “obsessed with improving the quality of the tourism product in Barbados” since it was the island’s main revenue earner.