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Thursday 18 April 2019
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South business chambers: Sandals withdrawal a ‘calamity’

Ramchand Rajbal Maraj
Ramchand Rajbal Maraj

While they described the withdrawal of Sandals Resorts International (SRI) from the Tobago project as a “calamity,” south Trinidad business chambers identified the lack of accountability and transparency as the cause of the project’s collapse.

Couva/Point Lisas chamber of commerce president Ramchand Rajbal Maraj said while the project would have benefited Tobago, there was still major infrastructural work to be done.

“I think it would have boosted tourism in Tobago. It is a setback.

“But we still have to look and see how we can boost tourism in Tobago. There are upgrades that we have to do still, such as the airport and the ferry service.” “It is unfortunate that the project couldn’t come through. We are saying the damage has been done and that in the future, projects or any development of that nature must be well thought-out and then the populace must be made aware of what is happening. Gone are the days when you could do anything and people are accepting it. Days like that are long gone, and people are more sensitised to what is happening in the country.”

On Tuesday, SRI CEO Gebhard Rainer said “negative publicity” and “consistent badgering” had been the deciding factors in the resort chain’s pull-out from the Tobago project. However, Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce president Rampersad Sieuraj said government must shoulder the blame for the collapse if negative publicity was the reason.

Rampersad Sieuraj

“Our major concern in this sad chapter is Sandals’ explanation of negativity, and if this is the true reason, the government of TT must take full responsibility for the naysayers.

“I don’t know if there is any evidence to support Sandals’ claims of negative publicity,” he added. “I think it is much more than that and I think we haven’t heard the full story of Sandals having to depart.”

He said the project has been “shrouded in mystery,” with little accountability and transparency, and this had resulted in a lack of information being given to the public.

“The politically correct answer is that it is a sad reflection on the government and its venture towards diversification. There has never seemed to be any real thrust in diversification.

“We have lost that opportunity. But the bottom line is, with or without Sandals, there are other issues to address to make tourism a viable sector in Tobago: the airbridge, the seabridge, the airport, the roads.”

In full agreement was Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce president Kiran Singh, who said greater emphasis should be placed on the development of the Tobago tourism sector after the withdrawal of Sandals.

“We need to have a well-thought-out process to get tourists into our country, because there is a lot of competition from our Caribbean neighbours, because tourism is very dynamic, and I don’t think enough attention is being paid at how we develop the tourism product as we move forward.”

He said a major concern about the Tobago project was the amount that would be spent by government and whether there would be a return on this investment. Couva/Point Lisas chamber of commerce president Ramchand Rajbal Maraj said while the project would have benefited Tobago, there was still major infrastructural work to be done.

“I think it would have boosted tourism in Tobago. It is a setback.

“But we still have to look and see how we can boost tourism in Tobago. There are upgrades that we have to do still, such as the airport and the ferry service.” “It is unfortunate that the project couldn’t come through. We are saying the damage has been done and that in the future, projects or any development of that nature must be well thought-out and then the populace must be made aware of what is happening. Gone are the days when you could do anything and people are accepting it. Days like that are long gone, and people are more sensitised to what is happening in the country.”

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