THE preservation of artefacts and the protection of the coast were among the main issues raised on Thursday at a site visit in Rocky Point where a $500 million Marriott hotel project is expected to be completed in 2025. Construction is set to begin next year.
Chief Secretary Farley Augustine led the site visit alongside Secretary of Tourism Tashia Burris, area representative Niall George, officials from the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development and Superior Hotels Ltd chairman John Aboud.Augustine said, "This morning we went through Rocky Point with the hotel developers as well as stakeholders within the Tobago space, people representing this community – the community of Mt Irvine, folks from the Historical Society, the surfers, and just people with general interest.
"This morning we were able to identify where some of the key historical sites are, where artefacts can and should be retrieved. We spoke to the developers about the coastal area and being able to protect the coasts at all costs. They gave the assurance that they are not going to do anything to the beach or to disturb the coasts."
Augustine said the Executive wanted to protect the interest of Tobagonians and ensure concerns are heard prior to the final design.
Archaeologist Vaughn Wastling said a fort from the 17th century is among the artefacts that need to be preserved.
"The major archaeological find on the headland is an old Courlander fort, this was built in 1680 and is potentially the oldest structure in TT.
"It's still in reasonable order. The walls are there, it's slightly damaged. There is a floor beneath, beautifully-dressed stone blocks."
Burris added, "I was blown away by the beauty that we found.
"Certainly we know about Fort James, Fort King George, Fort Milford, but there are so many other forts that exist in Tobago. It's simply to figure out where they are and figure out how to preserve them for our generations to enjoy them."
Aboud said the development is subject to change through tweaking.
He said the project includes a 200-room hotel with 13-15 bungalows, a villa development and townhouse development. "The project, as far as I'm concerned, is totally aligned with the aspirations of Tobago.
"We want to encourage tourism – the project does that. We want to encourage tourism with as much local input as possible – clearly our intention is that. Why would I want to import something if I can get it locally?"
In a press conference to announce the project last year, Evolving Tecknologies and Enterprise Development Company Ltd (eTeck) chairman Imtiaz Ahamad said the private development is expected to provide jobs for 750 people during construction.
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.