The initial conversation on the proposed Sandals and Beaches Hotel development of the Buccoo Golden Grove Estate gave a wide cross section of stakeholders an idea of what the resort chain could bring to the island, through a presentation made by Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Adam Stewart.
And both the business and tourism sectors are seeing positives in the resort, which they hopeful will bring further investment to the island.
A wide cross-section of representatives from the Canaan/Bon Accord community, the Business Chamber, the tourism industry and several other stakeholders—as well as Government and the THA—attended yesterday’s (September 19) presentation by the Sandals Group of their concept for a potential resort. The presentation was held at the Coco Reef Resort and Spa in Crown Point.
Chris James, president of the Tobago Hoteliers and Tourism Association (THTA), said tourism stakeholders are largely in support of the development. He is also asking for an assessment of the tourism sector to ensure the best fit for a Sandals resort.
“This is the start of a conversation,” James said. “We’re very pleased to be part of this conversation. We in Tobago for a while now wanted more investment in the tourism industry. We want to the tourism industry to be taken more seriously.”
Allan Clovis, who owns and operates Kariwak Village, said there will be the infrastructural benefits to a Sandals resort.
“I’m a small operator, and I have never had fears,” Clovis stated. “We’ve always done better when more competition comes on to the scene and I believe that. I am satisfied that a lot of the infrastructure will be done even if it is motivated by your interests will only go to help everybody else.”
Canoe Bay Resort owner Carol-Ann Birchwood-James said Tobagonians are not against having a Sandals Resort on the island, which will add crucial room stock, but asked for better communication.
In reply, Chief Secretary Orville London said some discussions have not yet taken place since talks are still at the conceptual stage. He said Tobagonians will be consulted as the conversation moves to other levels.
“I don’t want anybody to go away with the feeling that the reason why we’re not giving you definitive answers is because we’re not committed to the process (of consultation and dealing with public concerns),” London said.
“The reason why we’re not giving you definitive answers is because we cannot at this point in time, because we have not been able to do the kind of research that is necessary (to provide those answers).”
Stuart Young, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, told the group that although Government is part of discussions, it is listening to all concerns before entering into “hard negotiations and discussions”.
Young said: “What you’re seeing there are (preliminary) sketches. Nothing there is written in stone. We now need to get into negotiations with the Sandals Group and determine how we can go forward with a project. There will be (public) consultations.”
The Sandals concept presentation was intended to give stakeholders an idea of how the chain operates within local economies to include agriculture, tourism, entrepreneurs and business, and human capital development.