Neil Wilson, Chairman of the Buccoo/Golden Grove Estate, on Wednesday said Government was still negotiating with Sandals on the planned resort in Tobago and that he was “hopeful that something will happen pretty soon.”
In a telephone interview with Newsday Tobago, Wilson, asked for an update on the proposed plan for a Sandals resort at Buccoo, said:
“We have to wait and see… we really have to wait and see. I am hopeful that something will happen pretty soon. As far as I am aware there are negotiations taking place. My understanding is that the negotiations are ongoing, as far as I am aware I don’t know that there has been any conclusion at this time.”
Wilson also commented on former transport minister Devant Maharaj’ request to the Integrity Commission to investigate the procurement process as it related to the Sandals project.
“I saw something in the papers a couple of days ago, where Devant Maharaj was talking about the Integrity Commission investigating the contract but I don’t know that there is a contract. To date, I have not
seen a signed contract between Sandals and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, there is no contract,” Wilson said.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, speaking with Tobago stakeholders at a consultation at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort on August 21, announced that Sandals will have a management contract to operate the two hotels under the Sandals label, that the Government will own the hotels.
“Here, we are talking about two hotels at Buccoo Estate, a Beaches and a Sandals, because they are two different brands, 750 rooms. And it is not a Sandals hotel, it is a Government of Trinidad and Tobago hotel. So, we are not giving Sandals anything but a management contract to manage it under the Sandals label and it is an investment that can only be made when the numbers show, as they have shown, that it can fund itself,” the Prime Minister said.
Maharaj request to the Integrity Commission was for an official investigation into the procurement procedures used by the Government in the establishment of Sandals.
He has asked the Commission to investigate whether there was a Request for Proposals or Expressions of Interests from the government and or its agencies to International and local hoteliers and resort operators to establish an international hotel in Tobago. He also wants to know whether responses for RFPs or EIs from hoteliers and resort operators to establish an international hotel in Tobago were received and whether budgeted cost and financing of the hotel were made by Sandals to the government.
Maharaj also asked what was the list of concessions agreed to be given to Sandals, whether there was an Environmental Assessment for the Hotel to be located at the Golden Grove/Buccoo estate, and the criteria used to select the land as a site for an international hotel?
The plan to build a Sandals resort in Tobago was first announced by Rowley at a People’s National Movement (PNM) political meeting in St Joseph in June 2016. Then, Rowley told supporters that a 750-room Sandals resort was earmarked for Tobago as Government seeks to
make the island a tourism destination in a bid to generate revenue, jobs and foreign exchange. He said Government had come up with a tourism plan to diversify the economy and take the country out of the economic doldrums. Adding that with Sandals opening up doors in Antigua, Bahamas, Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia and Turks and Caicos, Rowley said it was time Tobago became an undisputed vacation experience to the world.
In February 2016, chairman of Sandals Resorts International, Gordon “Butch” Stewart visited Tobago to undertake an extensive aerial tour looking at prime real estate properties for possible investment.