SCARBOROUGH, Tobago, Thursday September 28, 2017 – Hurricanes Irma and Maria have wreaked havoc on the planned construction of a mega Sandals resort in Tobago.
The 750-room hotel project has been put on hold, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley confirmed at a press conference yesterday after holding talks with the business community on the country’s financial situation.
He told reporters that negotiations for the project were well advanced and Sandals Chairman Gordon Butch Stewart was all set to wrap up the talks and sign a memorandum of understanding earlier this month when Hurricane Irma struck.
“And just as that was about to happen…I think the very said day…the day of Hurricane Irma or something like that, the group suffered significant damage to a number of properties in the Northern Antilles and they say they had about 5,000 people on their hands to treat with who were struck by the hurricane. And that had put back the meeting we had planned,” Rowley said.
He was optimistic that the project would still become a reality and used the occasion to address issues raised by critics opposed to the deal.
Underscoring that the Sandals brand in Trinidad and Tobago would be a big plus, he dismissed suggestions that the hotel was getting a sweetheart deal from his government and would therefore benefit more from the arrangement.
“I want to make it abundantly clear that the Sandals project we have on the drawing board is not giving Sandals anything. Whatever we give or invest in that project, we are not giving Butch Stewart and Sandals anything,” he said.
Dr Rowley stressed that given the high level of competition in the tourism sector, his Government was seeking a brand that would deliver benefits to the twin-island republic.
“What Sandals will bring is the brand, the labelling and the management. We will be very pleased to be able to put on it a brand that by nature will attract to Tobago certain kinds of responses,” he said.
Rowley is confident that Sandals would deliver big dividends that would help to position Tobago as a leading tourism destination.
“We will do anything that is reasonably possible and doable to keep that as one of the projects we are working on,” Dr Rowley said.