Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis said he expects the majority of people employed at the $500 million Marriott development project in Rocky Point will be Tobagonians.
Dennis was responding to questions sent to him on Friday after stakeholders raised economic and environmental concerns surrounding the project. The development is being done by Superior Hotels Ltd, who are investing the $500 million. The developers are expected to receive a 99-year lease for 28 acres of land. Construction will begin in 2023.
The development will include a 200-room hotel, 28 duplex residences, 11 single-family luxury villas and 12 fully-outfitted townhouses. It will also contain facilities for scuba diving, jogging, cycling, local food and craft among other amenities.
It is expected to be completed in 2025.
Dennis said, "Tobagonians are well prepared and skilled to capitalise on the employment opportunities; from tradesmen to hotel supervisory and management. I expect no less than majority participation from Tobagonians."
Dennis, who is also Secretary of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries, added that livestock farmers and agriculture farmers stand to benefit significantly to be the main suppliers of fresh produce and meat to Marriott for its guests.
Dennis also sought to reassure environment stakeholders that the project will not be detrimental to their interests,
On Wednesday, Newsday spoke to Niamh Vaughan, who is pursuing her master's in Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development at UWI, and works alongside conservation group Save Our Sea Turtles (SOS) Tobago. Vaughn expressed serious concern over the potential negative impact of the development on the environment at Rocky Point, particularly the natural beauty of Rocky Point and the turtle nesting habitat at Back Bay.
Dennis said, "This project will be subject to all the typical requirements of a Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) from the (Environment Management Agency (EMA). Consultations and inclusion is ongoing and will continue."
The Office of the Chief Secretary's Facebook page posted on Friday that Superior Hotels has committed to include a detailed environment preservation plan that takes into consideration design, construction and occupancy.
It added that careful consideration has been given to conservation of the environment, natural beauty of the bay, erosion and sediment management plan and potential impact on vegetation, sea turtles and other marine species.
Since the announcement of the hotel project, tourism stakeholders have praised the initiative, noting it will attract North American airlift and tourists who prefer the familiarity of a brand name when travelling abroad.
Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association president Chris James said Marriott's arrival was "long time coming" and Tobago needed to upgrade its hotel room stock.
At the launch on September 21, Dennis urged citizens to not malign the project so it does not suffer the same fate as Sandals.
He was referring to the decision by Sandals, in 2019, to pull out of a deal to construct a resort in Tobago. Sandals cited the constant negative publicity surrounding the development as a main reason for its exit.
At the time, there were environmental issues raised about the prosed site for Sandals as well as questions surrounding concessions made to Sandals in a memorandum of understanding signed by the Government.
Dennis said the THA will be proactive to ensure the circumstances that ended the failed Sandals project are not repeated with this Marriott development.
"The THA as a partner in this development will endeavour to ensure that there is transparency, and meaningful consultation and collaboration among all the stakeholders of this project. We will also resist and debunk the misinformation which emanates from some quarters to ensure that the public is properly and accurately informed of the facts and details of this project."