Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles said the conversation to persuade Sandals to come to Tobago was ongoing, and as such there was no discrepancy with this position in statements made by Food Production Secretary Hayden Spencer that farmers were not being prepared to supply the planned resort which was as yet speculation.
Speaking at a press conference following a retreat by THA Secretaries to discuss the 2018 national budget and its implications for Tobago, Charles said he did not hear Spencer’s comment on Sandals but “I saw the headline and we know how headlines can be misleading.”
“In speaking with the Secretary, he did indicate to me the context. In other words what he (Spencer) was saying; at this point there was no signed arrangement therefore Sandals and the government is still in conversation. That is my understanding of what he meant…so I do not know really if there was any discrepancy, it depends on the perspective of which you come. As far as I am aware the conversations with Sandals is ongoing, in fact we eagerly look forward to persuading Sandals to come to Tobago,” he said.
At the post Executive Council media briefing on September 29, Spencer told reporters that the Food Production Division was not focussing on any potential demand by the proposed Sandals Resort.
“Let me be clear on this as it relates to the Sandals project, as Secretary for Food Production and Fisheries there is no direct documentation coming to the Division as it relates to Sandals, so in my opinion all the talk about Sandals to me is speculation. Until such time till the powers that be who are really responsible come through and actually say okay this is on, you know - this is where we are and this is going to start and we get timelines and so on; my task as the Secretary for Food Production and Fisheries is to prepare the farmers to supply the local market, supply the regional market like our neighbours in Trinidad and the Caribbean – and prepare themselves for export.”
“If Sandals actually be (become) a project that is on then we are in readiness for such a project but I am not going to say to a farmer do this for Sandals, that has not come to my desk as yet. We must be able to supply the present cadre of hotels, restaurants and guest houses with food that is grown in Tobago.
“I think that is the challenge that we should be looking at first and when we get there, if Sandals happen to come on stream then we take it to another level.”
On Saturday, Charles also told reporters that Sandals would bring the benefits of a branded hotel to Tobago.
“We would have articulated the benefits of a brand hotel to the island of Tobago because really and truthfully, Tobago does not have any branded hotel and branded hotels do have a place in the marketplace of tourism.
“I can say to you that whilst we have begun exploratory conversations with airlines in the United States and Canada to come to Tobago, Sandals already has a following in respect of airlines and airlift. Airlift is critical to the sustaining of a vibrant tourism product… I do hope at the end of the day the bargaining that is currently taking place can result in a firm commitment from the Sandals chain to join us as we build this island together,” he said.