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GOVERNMENT HAS RESPONDED to a groundswell of criticism over concessions to Sandals Resorts with a $12 million expanded incentives regime and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to be signed shortly with the hotels sector on duty-free concessions industrywide.
This was revealed in the House of Assembly yesterday by Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy as he introduced two bills to create new entities for product development and marketing in place of the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA).
“We have taken a decision as a Government to treat the tourism industry as an export sector,” he said.
Acknowledging the firestorm of criticism over the generous concessions to the Jamaican hotel chain, Sealy said that initiative was the “most transparent use” of the relevant legislation so far.
“Nothing was done under any bushel anywhere,” he declared.
“We did what we had to do in the full glare of the whole world. And I am not at all embarrassed by my role in that. I was trying since 2008 to get Sandals to come here.”
He noted that US$65 million would be spent on the property in Casuarina between April and December to bring it up to standard for investment.
Sealy also pointed out that in a parliamentary statement on Sandals it was said that nothing was “ring-fenced” and Government would do everything to get the right concessions regime for the sector.