British Bajans: Hotelier Errol McCollin
Errol McCollin was born in the UK and moved to Barbados, his father’s country of birth, in 2001.
Errol owns a boutique hotel in St James called ‘Shades of Barbados’ and offers visitors a bespoke experience which has led to several repeat clients.
He spoke to Yello about how he transitioned from living in the UK to Barbados, the challenges of running a business and why he loves soaking up the Caribbean sun.
What made you decide to move to Barbados?
We’d been talking about it for years but the timing was never right. Then we lost my mum in 2000, and my dad was in Barbados by himself, so that became the catalyst for the move. In the UK I was into real estate so my brothers and I decided to turn our attention to developing a project over here.
How was the transition from the UK to Barbados?
I came back when I was in my late 30s so I welcomed the culture change with open arms, and really embraced the different environment because I felt I had a better life balance here, as opposed to the UK, where time seems to be sucked away from you and you don’t know what happened to it.
In the beginning I was also going backwards and forwards and I was preoccupied with the building project. Then when we first started up with the holiday apartments, a lot of our friends and family came over, so the first few years it was just amazing fun.
My brothers and I pooled our resources, and I was the only one that was based here, but the move was easier because of that support and unity.
Why do you think there’s a large black British community here?
Obviously we all have our different reasons but for most of us it’s just about a better life. Back in the day it was more about people retiring here, but now we’re from all different walks of life and we’re all different ages.
I think it helps that Barbados is an easy transition because it’s not too big like Jamaica, or too small like some of the other islands, with nothing to do. You can get around it in a day and the infrastructure is quite well developed.
People really just want a warmer climate, a simpler way of life and a relaxed setting, and that appeals to many of us who were caught up in the rat race in the UK.
What was it like starting a business here?
The challenges we had were to be expected I suppose because we came with a UK mindset. For instance I came over with plans drawn up and an intricate model already made, aiming to build a glass house, but when I found a local architect they laughed and told me that it wouldn’t work.
So they scratched my plans, threw away my model, and gave me a Caribbean injection, which was a bit of a wake-up call and a learning curve.
Now we have a great network of people and a lot of repeat guests. We live on site so we try to create a home from home, with a family environment, and now our guests spread the word for us on social media.
The biggest challenge at the moment is the economy and the high cost of living but we aim to make sure the guests are still getting value for money.
What’s your typical day like?
I don’t have a typical day but I usually start off really early in the morning with some exercise and maybe golf. The staff come in and give feedback on the day and we go through the guest list to see who’s coming in.
I spend most of my time making sure the guests are fine, and with a hotel environment there’s always something going on. I try to be proactive so that the guests aren’t chasing me because I know what’s going on.
I pay attention to their whole experience, so I talk to the guests about their entire journey from the flight, to the taxi, the bus ride, and everyone has a different story. I also pass on my experience, knowledge and recommendations about the island.
What are three activities you recommend?
I tell everyone to go to Champers restaurant and also try the Jammin’ catamaran cruise. We have a relationship with Jammin’ and the cruise is great because you go out to the Caribbean sea, look back at the island, and it’s just mind blowing.
Champers is consistent, especially in terms of service, and for me, it just never fails because it’s a great experience.
I also urge my guests to go to the east coast and see a different side to Barbados. Sit down at one of the bays and watch the Atlantic Ocean. I love that contrast.
Tourists really should just stretch out and meet the locals because that’s where you’ll find the real culture and spirit of Barbados.
What do you do to relax?
My two passions are golf and music. I’ve definitely got the golf bug and it takes up my weekends now. I’m actually putting on a Shades golf tournament which will be an annual event.
I love music especially deep groove, the old soul and revival classics, from when I was growing up. I brought my DJ set over and every now and again I do a little stint. I’m a social butterfly so I like to be wherever the beat is.
What advice would you give anyone looking to start a business here?
Just do what you love first and foremost, what gives you a buzz and gets you up in the morning, rather than thinking about making money.
The beauty of coming to the Caribbean is that you get the chance to press the reset button. You can reinvent yourself and almost get a second chance to do what you really enjoy and what you’re good at.