On CNC3 News’ Business Watch segment Wednesday night with Judy Kanhai, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Stuart Young was interviewed on the Sandals Project in Tobago.
Afra Raymond, former JCC President filed papers for the release of the MOU on the Sandals Project. Young began by expressing that Mr. Jones was not involved in discussions between the Government and Sandals at this stage and that the Sandals beaches transaction he hopes would take place in Tobago is markedly different from what has happened throughout the rest of the Caribbean.
He said that the Government was still in negotiations and discussions of a management contract utilizing the Sandals brand. He reiterated that the uniqueness of the deal they’re looking at in Tobago is that of exactly what has happened with Hyatt and Hilton. The Government is going to build the plant, open the plant and Sandals is going to manage it. He said that the nature of this deal, though not finalized, is taking a very different approach from other Sandals resorts across the Caribbean such as Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados, Antigua and St. Lucia.
Young informed that Sandals has officially written to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago indicating the serious competitive disavantage this deal would put them in. Sandals is an international brand competing in the tourism market and has officially indicated to the Government that releasing the MOU would put them at a market disadvantage.
Young fervently expressed that there is no secret as it relates to the Sandals project. The tourism industry is very competitive and if the country is to attract sophisticated investors in tourism and other competitive areas, there is something called confidentiality that we as a country need to be mindful of.
He said, “At this stage, the government has not finalized a negotiated deal with Sandals, we are still in the process of doing that and that should not be jeapordized. At the right time, things can be disclosed.”
Young said that as of yesterday, he had been speaking with international lawyers for them to finalize the deal with Sandals which he expects to take place within upcoming weeks and hopes to return to T&T within the month of November with the announcement of finalization of the deal.
He further stated that any concessions granted to this project in Tobago would be concessions to the people of T&T who would be owning the hotel, so these would not be concessions granted to Sandals for their profitability but the real beneficiaries would be the taxpayers and citizens of T&T who would own the Sandals plant.
“Whatever concessions we work out with this deal, we are prepared to offer to the rest of the Hoteliers in Tobago. So it is not a matter of the other Hoteliers being put at a disadvantage when it comes to concessions,” Young said.
He also acknowledged that a new Terminal is being put in place at the Tobago airport and on the agricultural side, they want farmers to be prepared, and based on the expertise of Sandals, they would help farmers to get up to speed with their agricultural produce in being able to supply to Sandals together with some importation.
Young expressed that the Sandals brand attracts international tourists to the destination and the massive uplift that the project would bring to Tobago would not only be beneficial to the people of Tobago, but by extension, Trindad as well.
When asked about the issue of crime in Trinidad impacting tourism in Tobago, Young said that the building of a substantial police station is being planned near the project site and he urged not to call the issue of crime upon ourselves.
He closed by emphasizing, “Do not for a moment think that this present Government is not sophisticated enough and does not have the interests and the benefit of the people of Trinidad and Tobago at heart. It is exactly what we’ve been doing in the energy sector and we’ve been negotiating for the first time in a very long time, deals that are beneficial to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. We will do the same with Sandals.”
To see full interview: Sandals Project