(CMC) – The Tobago Business Chamber (TBC) Tuesday said it hopes there can still be “some way of salvaging” the deal that would allow Sandals Resort International (SRI) to reverse its decision to withdraw its participation in the establishment of a multi-million dollar resort on the island.
“The Tobago Business Chamber is convinced that with the Billions of Dollars of investment, in construction, job creation, training, and service delivery attendant upon such projects, it is possible for the population of Tobago as a whole to benefit and develop and derive spin-offs from such developments.
“The possible loss of the associated projects such as the Airport expansion, the Marina, golf course and other infrastructural developmental works, will also spell tremendous and significant economic and foreign investment losses to Tobago and Tobagonians,” the Chamber said in a statement.
SRI, citing “constant and ongoing negative publicity” Tuesday withdrew its participation in the project and according to its chief executive officer, Gebhard Rainer, Sandals would focus its resources “in the areas where we can be more effective”.
Rainer told reporters that the negative media coverage the company has received over the last two and half years while the negotiations had been ongoing with the Keith Rowley administration “for us as a global brand and for what we stand for…internationally is taking on a dynamic that we are not willing to carry on any longer.
Last year, Finance Minister Colm Imbert, said that the construction of the 750-room Sandals and Beaches Resort represented a major turning point for the economy of Tobago.
In its statement, the TBC said that it is with great “sadness” it had taken note of the statement by Sandals to withdraw from the proposed investment in the development of two major brand name hotels here.
“As a Business Chamber, we are always focused on facilitating and encouraging business and investment and development and we remain convinced that such business, development and investment can be done while still preserving and maintaining and nurturing the natural environment and the eco-systems of the island in keeping with the maintenance of its Natural Beauty and Pristine status as a Paradise which can manage both the competing forces of development and infrastructural improvement along with preservation of the heritage and environment for future generations.
“It is the hope of the Tobago Business Chamber, that all sides will be able to return to the table to resume negotiations and to find workable solutions to meet the aims and objectives of the two competing ideals.
“It is also the hope of the Tobago Business Chamber that one way or another, Tobago recognizes the absolute and urgent need for brand name hotels to help boost and promote its tourism thrust.”
The TBC said that the international significance of a major brand brings with it, a certain pull in terms of increased destination branding and destination awareness, greater airlift, greater interest by other airlines and greater improvements in standards and quality of service delivery and greater economic benefits all round.
“When the tide rises, it lifts all boats with it, both the big and the small ones. The Tobago Business Chamber is convinced that with the billions of dollars of investment, in construction, job creation, training, and service delivery attendant upon such projects, it is possible for the population of Tobago as a whole to benefit and develop and derive spin-offs from such developments.”
It said that the possible loss of the associated projects such as the airport expansion, the marina, golf course and other infrastructural developmental works, “will also spell tremendous and significant economic and foreign investment losses to Tobago and Tobagonians.
“It therefore remains the unending hope and desire of the Tobago Business Chamber that there can still be some way of salvaging this deal and investment and infrastructural development which Tobago desperately needs,” the TBC added.
National Security Minister Stuart Young, who was leading the government’s negotiation with SRI blamed a “handful” of persons for the decision by the Jamaica-based hotel chain to quit the project.
“This government tried its very best and put forward its best foot and all of its efforts to bring a project in particular to Tobago that would have uplifted in our view the economies of not only Tobago, but also of Trinidad.
“Today what we heard is the loss of an opportunity due to the negativity that was put on the Sandals brand only by a handful of people and I think that’s the lesson for us here in Trinidad and Tobago that a handful of people tainting a global international brand …of any Caribbean entity.”