The Tobago House of Assembly has emphasised that talks with the Sandals and Beaches Hotels are in its formative stages and cross sector consultations are to come.
A wide cross section of stakeholders attended the first concept presentation and round table discussion with Sandals executives last Monday. Sandals Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Adam Stewart, led his team through the extensive session at the Coco Reef Hotel in Crown Point.
Chief Secretary Orville London underscored that there have only been preliminary talks on the concept for a possible resort. Details such as the design of the resort, its size, and the infrastructure required for such a project have not yet been discussed.
Some rough sketches were used at Monday’s presentation to demonstrate what was possible at the Buccoo/Golden Grove Estate. Since talks are still in the exploration stage no decisions have been made on the design or construction of a proposed Sandals resort in Tobago.
The Chief Secretary said Monday’s presentation was held to give the attending interest groups—including entities and individuals from the private sector, tourism sector, community groups and Environment Tobago—an idea of what the Sandals brand represents, and the benefits such investment will bring to the economy and neighbouring communities. It also allowed stakeholders to express concerns.
“What we’re dealing with is a concept,” London stressed. “And what came out of the discussions is that we now have an opportunity to flesh out that concept and to fashion it in a way that will bring optimum benefit to the people of Tobago, to the people of the country, and to Sandals. And it is in that context that I want us to see this particular exercise.
“Nothing has been decided, there is no recommendation that will be ignored and every recommendation has the chance of enriching the process and strengthening the process so that whatsoever is designed and delivered to the people of Tobago and the people of this country will be something [they] want and something that will benefit them.”
The Chief Secretary said once “serious discussions” take place, the Tobago House of Assembly will update Tobagonians on these issues and hold public consultations, which he said are mandatory in the planning process for such a development.
Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Stuart Young said the Sandals presentation outlined several economic and social benefits for Tobago. This includes training and support across sectors that will provide goods and services to the hotels. Those sectors include agriculture, tour guides, taxi drivers and staffing.
Young added that the additional airlift and accompanying passengers will also boost the tourism industry and provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and service providers. But he said consulting the Tobago public is a key part of the process once negotiations begin.
“We’ve spoken for too long in Trinidad and Tobago about diversification,” the Minister said. “This is an obvious opportunity for all and we intend to pursue it. And hopefully it will come to fruition in as short a time as possible. But we’re not going to ignore the concerns that have been raised and we’re not going to ignore the consultative process.”
Sandals CEO Adam Stewart said every Sandals resort has had a positive economic impact on the destination by increasing the number of airlifts and visitors, and added that the Sandals Groups has a proven track record in this regard. This, he said, will benefit other hotels and smaller properties, as well as communities.
He also explained that talks with the THA are still at an early stage.
“This is a very early conversation,” Stewart said. “There are no details at this point. Tobago went from being down the list of Sandals priorities to the top of the list, and we are exploring what could become a major economic catalyst in the island of Tobago, known as Sandals and Beaches Resorts.”