THE Prime Minister says he is tempted to speak of the Tobago Sandals project in the past tense. Speaking on Thursday night at his Conversations with the Prime Minister meeting at Exodus Panyard in Tunapuna, Rowley was spoken to by a Tobagonian attendee who said there is a fear the Sandals project will drown out small hotel businesses on the island and asked what would be the benefits to Tobago tourism.
Dr Keith Rowley responded: "The Sandals project in Tobago and I am tempted to say 'were advancing in Tobago,' is a project meant to be bringing to TT, Tobago in particular, a brand; a world-class brand with a model which is proven to be successful across the Caribbean.
"It is a Caribbean-model but a world-class brand which brings the opportunity to make Tobago a more effective destination of choice for persons who look at the Caribbean as part of their area of choice for vacationing. Meaning that Sandals in Tobago would attract people that are not now coming to Tobago."
Rowley said those people coming to Tobago have to do a number of things have to be entertained, fed and paying for use of facilities which would bring in money that was not now coming into Tobago as well as increased international airlift.
"We call it a shot in the arm for the people of Tobago. And it would not have killed off the small business in Tobago. As a matter of fact, the opposite would have happened because there were more options for more areas to bring more people to Tobago, not all of them using the airlines to go to the Sandals hotel.
"Many of them would have gone to the other hotels in Tobago. And once Tobago becomes a destination of choice other people would have benefited from a larger number of tourists coming from the facilities, first of all, the airlift."
He said the airlift would have been the main benefit and not only a benefit to Sandals but all businesses that rely on foreigners coming to Tobago. He added the place in this country that offers the best opportunity to expand our tourism effort is Tobago.
"So whether it is Sandals or Jim boots, or tall boots or flat shoe we want that kind of thing where our tourism can be brought to the fore."