A major tourism boost is under way in East Tobago, as a privately owned $350 million hotel and villas project is expected to be completed in the next two years. The Elephant Tree Beach Club and Villas will be located on a spectacular beachfront in Argyle, Roxborough.
Speaking with Newsday on Wednesday, Saints Development Ltd local partner Ted Greig said, “The construction is going to be developing a world-class resort. We are going to be putting down a 40-room hotel, it's three floors, actually, with a clubhouse."
He said the property will include a fitness centre, two restaurants, a spa, a swimming pool, a jetty on the beach front, "and then we also would have 126 townhouses and villas forming part of the development.”
The idea, he said, was conceptualised by his partner who has been a visitor to Tobago for over 30 years. He said he fell in love with Tobago and that was when the decision was made.
Greig said it was designed in such a way not to mirror the bigger all-inclusive types of properties.
“We prefer to go with the small, intimate property because of its location; it’s close to the rainforest and the waterfall and within the community– it is going to fit perfectly with the aesthetics.”
The property is approximately ten minutes from Speyside, 45 minutes from Charlotteville and roughly half an hour from the ANR Robinson International Airport in Crown Point.
Greig said civil works started in March and the project will be completed in 24 months.
"Say by the first quarter of 2024, we should be up and running approximately, and of course taking into consideration weather conditions which tend to set back construction at times.”
The property, he said, has been long in coming as it was earmarked and was supposed to come on stream since early 2009, but “owing to unforeseen circumstances” the project was delayed.
“We got some significant delays as a result of our previous financiers which was Clico – we all know what happened with Clico (Colonial Life Insurance Corporation). As a result of that, we were unable to continue with the project, we did start, in fact, back then. We had gotten some drawdowns on the finances and we actually started some groundwork – clearing the site and mobilising equipment but unfortunately it didn’t continue because of what happened.”
Clico, once the largest conglomerate in the Caribbean, collapsed in 2009.
He said they met with several other financiers thereafter and although there were promises, “they themselves were unable to step up to the plate for one reason or another.”
Now with a new financier – Home Mortgage Bank (HMB) – Greig said they were getting ready to resume operations when the pandemic struck. But he said the plan is now moving ahead and the timing is right.
“Tobago has not had a proper investment in terms of resort or development since the Hilton, which was some time around 2000, we haven’t had a tangible resort since then. This resort is going to add significantly to the product in Tobago, not just in terms of jobs. We can actually see an increase in airlift coming because the demand for the place to stay would now start to evolve.”
He said the project will engage three contractors as one has been assigned for the civil works, one for the construction phase and the other for the wastewater treatment facility.
He added that hundreds will be employed.
“During the construction, we anticipate employing approximately over 300 persons and of course this would be including both earth works and the construction phase. After construction, we anticipate close to 300 persons again – those figures can fluctuate. We have a variety of positions: human resources, guest relations, reservations – all these managerial positions are going to be reserved for local persons, we’re trying to employ as much local persons once they’re trained and qualified.”
Having been involved in the tourism industry since 1994, he said emphasis would be placed on customer service training.
“We are going to be investing in that. I personally would be playing a keen interest in that... This is the area that I want to see we get to. I want to make this resort an example, use it as a pilot.” There are also plans to partner with the community, he said.
“Farmers, persons doing agro processing. One of the things I would like to see as well is to have entertainment in the resort and persons selling their craft. Bring people into the resort, so they can feel a part of, and they can earn some monies as well.”
He said there have been several stakeholder engagements on the project, which he said will continue throughout.