Trinidad PM takes part of blame for Sandals pullout

By Shaliza Hassanali

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PM Rowley

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley yes­ter­day ac­cept­ed some re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for San­dals Re­sorts In­ter­na­tion­al pulling out of the To­ba­go ho­tel project.

“If I have to do this all over again I cer­tain­ly will spend more time try­ing to en­sure that the cyn­ics don’t con­trol the air­waves,” he said dur­ing his Con­ver­sa­tion with the Me­dia at the Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre, St Ann’s.

He said with the high lev­el of cyn­i­cism dis­played, laced with po­lit­i­cal agen­das and mo­tives, there is no chance of San­dals re­turn­ing to our shores.

He said: “They have pulled up their stakes and they have gone.”

Row­ley said the Magde­le­na Grand Beach and Golf Re­sort does not have a brand, so when San­dals of­fered to es­tab­lish a re­sort in To­ba­go, his ad­min­is­tra­tion was very ex­cit­ed.

The fact that San­dals is no longer in the pic­ture could ham­per To­ba­go’s de­vel­op­ment, he said.

Dur­ing yes­ter­day’s three-hour long ses­sion dur­ing which re­porters grilled him on the con­tro­ver­sial project, Row­ley was asked if his Gov­ern­ment was will­ing to ac­cept some re­spon­si­bil­i­ty af­ter they took a year and three months to ne­go­ti­ate a non-bind­ing Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MOU) with San­dals.

Row­ley in­sist­ed that the MOU did not take months to fi­nalise. How­ev­er, there was a de­lay due to last year’s hur­ri­cane which de­stroyed some of the ho­tel’s projects.

He said Gov­ern­ment had been push­ing for the San­dals Ho­tel and Beach­es Ho­tel at Buc­coo Es­tate, which would have com­prised be­tween 750 to 1,000 rooms, to cre­ate an in­ter­na­tion­al brand for the sis­ter isle.

“So if it has not come to fruition we have to take some re­spon­si­bil­i­ty be­cause we did not set out to fail. We were not giv­ing San­dals any­thing,” he said.

The Prime Min­is­ter said with San­dals no longer in the pic­ture, To­ba­go will no longer be su­per at­trac­tive for in­vestors, but his ad­min­is­tra­tion will keep on do­ing what has to be done, hop­ing to achieve the re­sults they are look­ing for. He ad­mit­ted that he was dis­ap­point­ed when he heard the news, while oth­ers were ex­cit­ed.

Row­ley al­so agreed that the pop­u­la­tion did not buy in­to the project and that Gov­ern­ment’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions was some­times seen as pro­pa­gan­da.

“Clear­ly, if the Gov­ern­ment had done enough there wouldn’t be any­body say­ing that there is a neg­a­tive on this project. But clear­ly, you have peo­ple say­ing that. There is al­ways room to try and con­vince oth­er peo­ple,” he said.

How­ev­er, he as­sured that all is not lost and oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ties will be sought for To­ba­go’s tourism thrust.

“This is not go­ing to set us back,” he said.

Dur­ing the ses­sion, Row­ley claimed the me­dia had been fed wrong in­for­ma­tion on San­dals by dif­fer­ent quar­ters, in­clud­ing the Op­po­si­tion and he crit­i­cised them for pub­lish­ing it as gospel. He said even be­fore San­dals did any­thing in To­ba­go they were faced with bad press.

He al­so took sev­er­al jabs at Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar for say­ing that the project was mired in con­tro­ver­sy, lacked prop­er pro­cure­ment and ac­count­abil­i­ty and was a big se­cret.

“The coun­try has been lied to for so long by many of those who are in the fore­front try­ing to give you ad­vice . . . that when you get the truth you don’t know how to han­dle it. With this Gov­ern­ment, what you see is what you get,” he said.

Al­though San­dals’ CEO Geb­hard Rain­er has said the com­pa­ny may re­turn to To­ba­go once the en­vi­ron­ment is right, Row­ley said giv­en the way things have un­fold­ed, he does not see them as a fu­ture prospect.


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  1. Sadly this is a lost opportunity. Sandals has proven to be a responsible chain environmentally and professionaĺly in the hospitality sector which is unlike other all inclusive hotel chains.


  2. Tobago dodged a bullet as far as i'm concerned


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