The Intimate Hotels of Barbados group is celebrating 23 years of providing service excellence in the hospitality industry. This membership association of over 40 hotels started in 2000 under the trading name Small Hotels of Barbados Inc. and represents the best of the island’s small hotels, apartments, guest houses and villas. 

To celebrate its 23rd anniversary, Intimate Hotels of Barbados (IHB) is taking its valued public behind the scenes to learn some of its history and meet some members of the group. Today we introduce Ocean Spray Apartments

The property, which is located in Inch Marlow, Silver Sands, Christ Church is surrounded by beautiful blue beaches, and nestled in a popular surf spot Surfer’s Bay. The beautiful property which overlooks the picturesque blue Barbados sea is owned and managed by Mahmood Patel. 

Patel realized he wanted to become a hotelier after enjoying his tenure as a contracted landscaper at a popular hotel. 

“My journey into the hospitality industry  came out of gardening and landscaping as I formerly managed the gardens at ‘Cunard Paradise’ many years ago. What I liked about this space was the transient nature of people coming and going. I realized that I wanted to be in the hotel industry because of the vibe that I saw whilst witnessing persons enjoy our landscaping services,” he said. 

Patel who is the immediate past Chairman of Intimate Hotel of Barbados Group said in 1993 he decided to purchase the hotel which had a rich history.

“Ocean Spray Apartments has a very rich history dating back to the 1960’s as it was one of the oldest nightclubs in Barbados with the Penthouse Lounge, the remnants are still here which was a piano bar and is reputed that Nina Simone would have played the piano here sometimes back in the day as well. I bought the property in 1993 and I have been upgrading and working on it since then,” he said. 

The Owner and Operator of Ocean Spray Apartments Mahmood Patel is passionate about eco-tourism and thus is also the owner of Coco Hill Forest in St. Joseph. Thus, at Ocean Spray Hotels they offer farm to table meals and they also ensure that all of their property is eco-friendly. 

“What makes Ocean Spray Apartments special is that I have been able to integrate it with farming and agriculture through Coco Hill Forest, so we do farm to table here. The other thing that we do is niche tourism as we are located in a surfing community we offer windsurfing, kite surfing, the water sports part of tourism as well as an agricultural element.  Personally, I believe that we should try to make tourism more sustainable and resilient,” he said. 

The owner of Ocean Spray Apartments and Coco Hill Forest, Mahmood Patel said that one of the highlights of his business thus far was realizing that the property had the remnants of one of the oldest nightclubs in Barbados. 

“We learnt that this nightclub [Penthouse Lounge] had some prominent people passing through here. I have kept the legacy, the dancehall, the floor, the bar and so on. It is reputed that some of our earlier Prime Minister’s used to hang out here. I have kept that architectural heritage and maybe one day it can be shared with other persons,” he said.

Patel said one of the things, he would like to see occur within Intimate Hotels of Barbados is that the group operates as a collective so they could create economies of scale. 

“We are about a thousand small hotel rooms, and we have just over 40 members. Now, if we work together collectively, we can accomplish economies of scale and become an important sector of the tourism industry. Intimate Hotels of Barbados owners are predominately Barbadian men and women so when you talk about the IHB tourist dollar most of that is staying in the economy and it is not expatriated out. We are also a small hotel footprint so people can get to know us, the guest get to know the owner thereby having a more long-term relationship with tourism. I want to build on that to see how the small hotel sector can play a more pivotal role in our economy,” he said.

Patel believes the time has come for Barbados to diversify our tourism product so that young Barbadians would have more of a buy-in in the future development of the sector. 

“We as a state and a nation should probably look at reinventing what we think tourism is and not focus it only on the room or accommodations but on the experiential side of it. Barbados should be the place where you have 1001 things to do and then you stay in a room. What I mean by that is that if you have 1001 things to do- attractions, events, art, craft, heritage et al it builds out product that you can get a lot more involvement and local buy-in to. I think that if I have a message for young Barbadians, it would be to refocus our tourism product into more experiential tourism that is more local and community driven,” he said. (Write Right PR Services)