BUNJI APOLOGIZES FOR WIFE'S SLIP UP
The devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Northern Antilles has resulted in Sandals resort chain putting plans for building a 750-room hotel in Tobago on hold.
Confirmation came from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel yesterday, following a six-hour discussion with the business community on a theme entitled Prime Minister on Spotlight of T&T’s Financial Circumstances - The Road Ahead.
In giving new details about the project, Rowley said one of the things his Government has been trying to do was attract our nation with a positive, even though some people saw “scandal in that.”
Regards negotiations with Sandals, Rowley said things had started to progress well and head of the Sandals group Butch Stewart was actually planning to come to T&T to wrap up discussions and sign a memorandum of understanding to finalise the mega project.
“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 plan,” Rowley said
Rowley said he hoped that Sandals “does not lose their interest in Tobago as a result of the Irma and Maria losses and more so by a rejection of this approach by influential voices in Trinidad and Tobago.”
The PM said they are inviting a brand, referring to Sandals, into our shores, but noted that the national conversation for some people was that the country was giving away something.
“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. What Sandals will bring is the brand, the labelling and the management.”
He said the Government was aiming to expand tourism and associated with that expansion will be a label that will bring to T&T the benefits as described.
Rowley said the same model that the Government used with state-owned Hilton Trinidad and Hyatt Regency Hotels, they will adapt for Sandals.
“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 the scale at which they want to build Sandals will have a transformation effect on Tobago.
“Not by just tourists coming to a location but by the economy of Tobago, which has become fairly comfortable without doing certain things and we are aiming to use it to lift Tobago as a Caribbean destination.”
Rowley said he was confident that if we welcome Sandals to T&T it would be a plus for our effort and economy.
“We will do anything that is reasonably possible and doable to keep that as one of the projects we are working on.”