Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Keith Rowley. (FILE)
PORT OF SPAIN – The Trinidad and Tobago government Thursday said while it had sought to develop an arrangement with the Sandals Resorts Intonation (SRI) to manage a proposed hotel property in Tobago, no agreement had yet been reached with the Jamaica-based hotel chain.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley brushed aside calls from the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) and other entities for his government to make public the accord reached with Sandals for the proposed project.
“There are consultations that are going to be required. Once we agree with Sandals what the project is going to be . . . then we can put those details to the relevant authority in Trinidad and Tobago as to what we are about to do in Tobago.
“So if you have not yet done the agreement, let’s say on size of hotel, nature of hotel, location of hotel, then the approving agency doesn’t have anything to work with. So when persons say we are hiding information, we have no information to hide,” Rowley told reporters at the end of the weekly Cabinet meeting.
“We are generating information and as we generate it, we make it available to the public. The first piece of information we gave to the public was that the government of Trinidad and Tobago has invited Sandals to come to our country and to bring its brand to a facility that we in Trinidad and Tobago will make available for their management and use in terms of a business expansion in Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said.
Earlier, Communication Minister Stuart Young, who is leading the government negotiating team with Sandals, told reporters that “for the umpteenth time all we have at this stage is an MOU but we have been having sensitive discussions with them to persuade them for us to move to the next step . . . which is the negotiation of commercial agreements and a management agreement”.
Young said that the intention is for the government to build the plant “and we are open to having discussions with those who may want to invest equity in it and then we are basically getting Sandals to manage it”.
“What has happened is that only this morning that I can now confirm that after having discussions with the deputy chairman of Sandals, Adam Stewart . . . we are going to be proceeding.
“So the next step is they are going to send to us draft commercial agreements and a draft management agreement,” Young said, adding that the government has retained an international firm of lawyers to help in the negotiations that he hopes will be concluded within the next month.
“At that stage and as part of the negotiations this morning and on the instructions of the prime minister, when we have completed the commercial arrangements and the inked has been signed on these agreements both sides . . . are prepared to disclose what terms and conditions can be disclosed.
“But as I was reminded by the sandals team, we are at a sensitive stage (and) at this stage there are no finalised terms and conditions to release,” Young said, giving the assurances “that as soon as we are there we will release it”.
Rowley told reporters that his administration is strongly of the opinion that the island’s tourism sector could benefit tremendously from a Sandals brand.
He said it is a benefit that is now being enjoyed by several countries in the Caribbean where the Jamaica-based hotel chain operates.
“We must be the only Caribbean island with a tourist potential that does not have that brand within our borders. So it is not something that we could put on to ourselves. It is something we can invite into our country.
“I have no problem saying to the country as I did before I invited them (Sandals) into this country because I want them to bring to us in Trinidad and Tobago, particularly Tobago, so that we can benefit in Tobago n a way the other islands are benefitting.
“So I have no problem in accepting responsibility for doing that,” Rowley said, adding “yet there are those who are trying to tell the population that there was no procurement process”.
Rowley said his administration was not interested in every and anyone being invited to run the proposed hotel in Tobago, except Sandals.
“We wanted Sandals because of the brand. Its airlift, its worldwide advertising will give Tobago what Tobago does not have now, which is put it in a position to be known to the world.
“We spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to advertise Tobago and get nothing in the process,” he said, adding that he has a request from the Tobago Chamber of Commerce for the government to spend TT$120 million in destination marketing “with no guarantee of any success”. (CMC)