Government is hoping to exchange “the relevant contractual documents” and conclude and execute an agreement for the Sandals resort at Buccoo by December 10 during a visit by Sandals Resorts International Deputy Chairman Adam Stewart and his executive to Trinidad and Tobago.
So said Communications Minister Stuart Young, speaking at the post-Cabinet media briefing at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Gold Resort in Lowlands on Friday.
“… we have been engaged with the Sandals’ Executive for some time in discussions and in fact negotiations as to whether we can proceed with a Sandals and Beaches project in Tobago…we had signed an MOU, it was a non-binding MOU and this MOU was really to set out that the parties would sit in good faith and continued discussions to see whether we could move to the project stage.
“I am happy to say that only last week, the board of Sandals took a decision that they will in fact proceed now to the negotiation of the commercial terms of the agreement,” he told reporters.
Young said contrary to other reports “there is no project in place until we have signed the various commercial agreements including a management agreement.
‘We what have been asking Sandals to do, is we, the people of Trinidad and Tobago will build the plant…according to Sandals specifications in Tobago and then they would manage it and we would utilise their brand of Sandals and Beaches for this project.”
Young said that he was currently awaiting the first drafts of the commercial agreements from Sandals to move on to the stage of negotiations.
“As soon as we receive these commercial agreements, we have indeed engaged White and Case, international firm of lawyers who are also helping us on the energy side for empowered negotiations with BP and Shell, to represent the Government and the people of Trinidad and Tobago in this transaction.
“We are looking at a possible visit by Mr Adam Stewart and his executive including the CEO on the week of the 10th December. I am hoping that between now and December 10, we would be able to exchange the relevant contractual documents between ourselves and hopefully, we would use that time for the concluding of the agreement and the execution of the agreement,” he said.
On commentary in the public domain on the proposed resort at Buccoo and the MOU, Young referred to a media interview with Sandals’ Corporate Services Director Jeremy Jones in October in Barbados where he, Jones, told reporters that there was nothing to hide.
“Mr Jones was not part of the discussions, the detailed discussions and negotiations between ourselves and Sandals, so he was really speaking about general principles. Thereafter we had the Chairman of Sandals, Mr Butch Stewart, who in his interview himself told us that he has not been participating in the day to day conversations and it was been led by his son, the Deputy Chairman Adam Stewart.
“As we the Government has said at every single time and every pillar of this arrangement, every time we’ve met with Sandals… we’ve said who we’ve met with, we’ve put out press releases, on occasions we’ve even had press conferences. Mr Adam Stewart and Mr Gebhard Rainer are the ones who we are dealing with on the day to day specifics. So, with respect to the request for the MOU, that matter is currently before the court and I don’t want to say too much about it in our discussions and because of the sensitive time that we were at in those discussions and conversations,” he said.
Young did say there was a confidentiality clause in the agreement.
“The feeling at the time was that we were (at) too sensitive a stage in the discussions, let us make our agreement first before any agreement or understanding is released. … in fact, we were requested by Sandals that because of the sensitive stage that we are at and the commerciality of these agreements and how competitive the hotel industry is, that they would prefer not to have that put out there in the public and reliance on the confidentiality clause in the agreement,” he said.
In October, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the construction of the 750 room Sandals and Beaches Resort represents a major turning-point for the economy of Tobago.
He said that the hotel was in keeping with the objectives of the newly established Tobago Tourism Agency that wasdeveloping and marketing the Tobago tourism product as a leisure-based location.
“Within this framework, the Sandals Golden Grove Tobago Project represents a major turning-point for the economy of Tobago. The Sandals and Beaches Resort will be built at Buccoo/ Golden Grove,” Imbert said, adding that the resort will have approximately 500-750 rooms and up to 2,000 permanent employees with significant linkages to the local economy.
“The economic impact of Sandals will be substantial, including estimated income to the Government of US$80 million per year in taxes and other payments. The project will add significant value to the tourism industry as we continue our drive towards sustainable economic development and diversification away from oil and gas,” he said in Parliament.
At Friday’s post cabinet media briefing, Young also announced that a Belgium-based company had been selected as the preferred bidder for the construction of a marina in Tobago.
He said the company, Jan De Nul, was one of two bidders that had shown an interest in the project, the other being the Marine Resorts Tobago which did not pass the first stage of the process.
Young said that the second stage would involve discussions with respect to the financial terms of the proposal which is to design, finance, build marina.
He said National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (NIDCO) will lead the process, including negotiations and applying for all necessary approvals for the project “that we expect…will stimulate a whole host of growth in our marine sector in Tobago and assisting in the diversification of the economy.”