WHILE they voiced support for the Sandals Tobago project, the main concern of stakeholders in Tobago remains their lack of “consultation and involvement” .
Head of the Tobago Unique Bed and Breakfast Self Catering Association Kaye Trotman, speaking with Newsday Tobago on Monday, said there is still some confusion within the sector as concerns are on both the negative and positive sides.
“Knowing that Sandals is coming, we need to prepare and get ourselves ready in terms of plant upgrade, customer service etc," she said, but explained, “I still think the information is not clear about how Sandals would benefit the industry. At this time, everything still seems secretive and it is as though it is been pushed down your throat… we need to feel as though we are a part of the decision-making about what happens to us. The whole communication process in this Sandals deal, in my view, has not been very forthcoming and very engaging to help mitigate against the confusion that may exist.”
However, she is hopeful that with the arrival of the Sandals brand, the island’s marketing would be given a boost.
“People are still complaining about when Sandals come, they won’t get any business and that sort of thing, without understanding that Sandals customers could never be ours. So, whether Sandals is here or not…we would have never received the customers that Sandals is able to bring, period.
“What you’re hoping is that Sandals’ presence would have a positive effect on the airlift situation, which means with more flights coming, there is a greater opportunity to bring more guests (who) would not stay at Sandals, but would stay at smaller properties, and that you’ll get the kind of market presence internationally because Sandals would invest money in advertising its brand,” she said.
President of the Tobago Agricultural Society Micheson Neptune welcomes Sandals but agrees more information should be made public.
“The only thing is, at this point we still don’t have the information relating to their requirements to produce, so we’re still in the process of trying to get that information, so we could get our farmers ready in terms of what they use, what type of products they use and the quantities, so we could start identifying certain farmers who can produce those items.
It wasn't only about Sandals, he said. “Once we prepare for the tourism industry, when Sandals comes, they would fit into our programme.”