THERE is no secret deal between the government and Sandals Resorts International (SRI). No concessions have been given to the multinational resort chain, to develop its two brands- Sandals and Beaches hotels in Tobago.
What exists is a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between both parties which addresses the scale of the resort, employment opportunities and training which would be available to locals.
Making this announcement in Barbados on the weekend was SRI’s chief executive officer and deputy chairman Adam Stewart, who spoke to reporters via video conferencing at the Sandals Royal Barbados conference room. Stewart was at the time, speaking from the Sandals’ Bahamian resort.
Asked whether there was a secret deal with the PNM as alleged by the Opposition during last Friday’s parliamentary sitting, Stewart said: “There are no secrets. Let me stand behind the government and say there are no secrets.”
On the MOU, Stewart said, “This is a non-binding directional agreement that basically sets out the scale of the hotel, the type of employment, the linkages that’s likely to come from there. It speaks to the training and development programmes that comes with our organisation, training and development of citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, and the framework around it.
“It speaks to supply chain management and the company’s commitment to purchase locally for economic impact. This will be the 10th Island that we are developing should this be going ahead.” Stewart said that there has been a lot of discussion regarding who would own and build the 750-room resort which would include its Sandals and Beaches brands.
He noted that the idea of concession was “premature” as discussions were still ongoing. “In a scenario where government says to us we would like to own the hotel because it is a strategic investment for the country, there is no tax concessions, because the government owns it so the conversation around concessions is completely premature. We don’t know how the deal will look,” he added.
Stewart said if government says they want to own half of it and want Massy, Guardian, Republic Bank, “all of the big boys”, to own the other half, then we can’t have a conversation about what type of concessions.
He also noted that the company paid the relevant taxes at all of its resorts including Value Added Tax.
While he did not specifically identify which property was earmarked for the Tobago resort, Stewart said the TT government is responsible for acquisition of the land.