Daly Bread: Beads, beaches and business risk; why Sandals didn’t fit Trinidad and Tobago

As is well known, Manhattan, New York City—home of Wall Street and some of the most expensive real estate in the world—is an island. The Dutch bought it in 1626 from the First Peoples who were the occupiers at the time.

It is uncertain what or how the Dutch paid but they did not use formal currency. The popular folklore says that they paid in beads and trinkets worth US$24. There is also a letter written by a Dutchman evidencing payment in some goods worth a little over US$1,000 by today’s values.

Photo: Native American Indians negotiate with Dutch settlers.

The Manhattan purchase is a vivid example of inequality in bargaining power. There is a respectable view that Caribbean islands needing tourism suffer from inequality of bargaining power and that they trade prize beach locations for the use of international flagship names on a new resort for very little.

Typically, the island government leases the land and bears the full cost of building the resort. This is a heavy capital investment and the flagship takes no capital risk, meaning that the potential loss of all or part of the capital invested if the resort project fails or does not sufficiently meet its projections, falls on the government.

Typically also, the flagship’s formal connection with the project is a contract to manage the resort on advantageous terms whereby its management fees are a preferential call on revenues earned by the resort. The island government also runs the risk that the flagship may pull out from the resort as happened with the resort in Tobago, now known as the Magdalena Grand.

The benefits of employment at the resort and the supply of goods and services, have of course to be considered as a benefit accruing to the island. However, given the capital invested and the business risk taken by the island, these benefits may come at a cost out of proportion to their worth.

In reality, the government may be subsidising these benefits with inadequate protection against a pull out by the flagship.

I am raising the regional problem of beads (symbolic of non currency benefits), beaches and business risk in the aftermath of the announcement that Sandals will not be pursuing a high profile project in Tobago. I will be surprised if raising these issues can be categorised as ‘treachery’, a lack of ‘patriotism’ or ‘naysaying’.

Photo: Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young (centre) with Sandals deputy chairman Adam Stewart and CEO Gebhard Rainer.

It also needs to be said that these issues are not invalid points for debate and re-assurance because only a ‘handful’ of persons raise them. Frequently, only a handful of people have the expertise and experience to recognise the flaws in a business case or the guts to put forward alternative business cases.

Likewise, however vigorously these issues are pursued along with the environmental ones, their pursuit cannot be dismissed merely as ‘negative publicity’ as though freedom of thought and expression must be diluted to suit the advancement of a business case by a particular individual or corporation.

When the people’s assets and taxpayer money are involved, communities must be won over, not bludgeoned.

Some of these considerations of what and how government announcements are to be received apply with equal force to the announcement that the government has ‘allocated’ TT$142million for Carnival 2019.

For what purpose and for what returns is this investment being made? Who will be the beneficiaries of the payout? Does this sum include the cost of items such as overtime for our police who keep the peace and of cleaning up public spaces?

These questions cry out for answers, particularly as the Minister of Tourism—with admirable candour—stated that government investment in Carnival as a tourism product had failed.

Photo: The La Horquetta Pan Groove steelpan orchestra respond to a conductor.
(Courtesy Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

Is any of this money being allocated to the shambles that Panorama has become? For years I have advocated that Panorama must lead to a final that puts prime bands in prime time rather than annual endurance tests of ‘shows’ that go on for unbearably long hours.

Finally, someone of stature in a prime band has spoken out. I refer to the remarks by Junia Regrello of Skiffle, who is also Mayor of San Fernando, concerning the ‘abuse’ of Panorama, a subject to which I intend to return.

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  1. Miss Hadad is a buisness woman and understands y negative publicity would affect buisness.We did a real good job of making Sandals sound uncaring about d environment. under handing dealing and big riggers all for political and popularity gain.

  2. Was there a Cost-benefit analysis? Feasibility study?

  3. “Have you met Butch Stewart? Would you describe him as a wimp? When he was a child did he mis-learn the nursery rhyme as: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will scare me more?”

    So why did they call him “Butch”?

    Are we really so naive in this country that we believe all the half-baked hype we have been fed about Sandals? Are our “leaders” such poor negotiators that they do not recognise the tactics used by Sandals experts?”


  4. Lasana, I’ve read each article and I can take each for it’s own merit, see the little biases and extract the salient points. But I have one question. With all the recent records of contracts and deals that have been re-negotiated to reduce costs to the country (unless you also believe all of these claims to be untrue), do you think that the Gov’t would have negotiated poorly with this deal and undo all that they claimed to do before just for the sake of having the franchise here? I am no savvy business man or politician but somehow as a layperson that doesn’t make sense. Boast of saving 1.23bn from renegotiated deals only to sell the clothes on my back to get a Sandals (pun intended)?

  5. What really caused Sandals pullout?

    MANY of the complaints against the Government’s plan to engage Sandals in its Tobago tourism initiative were that Sandals would not be investing in Tobago; the government will be taking all of the risk since it would be investing in the hotel and other in-country infrastructure.
    Another complaint was that Sandals would only bring in to Tobago the foreign exchange required to operate the hotel and much of this will be spent on imports with little gain of foreign exchange to Trinidad and Tobago.
    Another was that Sandals has the reputation of demanding massive tax breaks; for example, on even food/ drink that is imported.
    What many are failing to appreciate is that the model our government was attempting to use was different to, say, the model in which Sandals was a foreign investor in the country. The T& T-Sandals model was more of a global value chain owned by the T& T Government in which Sandals was to be employed in various stages of the chain, particularly so to use their skill, brand, reputation to attract visitors from the targeted markets.
    In the first model with Sandals as a foreign investor, Sandals-overseas would collect all of the funds and transmit only the part of these to the hotel necessary to run the institution. Naturally Sandals would wish to optimise its on-island costs via reduced taxes and the like. Governments of the islands could impose a room tax on each visitor, which, Like VAT, Sandals would be contracted to collect.
    In the global value chain, owned by the T& T Government, T& T would provide the investment in hotel, infrastructure etc. while Sandals would be employed based on their expertise to run the on-island hotel stage and off-island the market development, marketing, sales and delivery of the visitors.
    The major difference between the models is that the finances of the Tobago complete chain are visible to the Government. Hence with a block-chain based accounting system the financial transactions would be visible to all and cannot be changed once logged.
    On-island taxes to Sandals then are those normally paid by an employee working locally, based on an agreed fee. The fee paid to Sandals-overseas and associated taxes follow the normal path of foreign services delivered to a government.
    One concern in the Sandals agreement is how will the contract restrains Sandals from discriminating against Tobago and favouring, say, Grenada?
    Again the fee structure can make it as lucrative for Sandals to do either. Surely, conventional tourism in Tobago is in an extremely poor state as far as its market development, marketing and sales are concerned since some 500,000 visitors go to Grenada while Tobago struggles to get 20,000!
    Indeed the infrastructure in Tobago will need upgrading and since T& T sees tourism as a diversification effort, the risk and costs fall to us. Sir Arthur Lewis tells us about economic development, diversification, by foreign direct investment. It worked in T& T because we had petroleum resources.
    More realistically Nobel Prize winner, Paul Romer, tells us that economic development depends on our endogenous activities and Richard Baldwin in his book, The Great Convergence, concursand sees the spill-overs by being in a global value chain that depends on the economic efficiencies of its stages, as the fastest way to get there.
    If Sandals bowed out of the project because of negativity by some which could hurt its brand image, then the fault lies with our government which did not define the above global chain features in detail.
    Still, I do not support business planning in the street, though the development of its, Government’s, plans by the process of public legitimation can both educate the public on the proposal and deal with issues that arise.
    In this case the public’s apparent lack of appreciation of global value chains was the projects’ downfall.
    Mary K King St Augustine

  6. Sandals saved Rowley
    By Raffique Shah (Trinidad Express)

    PRIME MINISTER Dr Keith Rowley should thank the principals of Sandals for saving him from a fate worse than death.
    When the Butch Stewart- owned luxury resorts chain dispatched its CEO to announce its withdrawal from the three billion dollar (or whatever it would have cost) Tobago project, it provided a clean escape from infamy for the PM.
    Like most informed observers and analysts-and here I exclude Rowley’s political opponents-I am convinced that negative publicity was not the reason for the Sandals pull-out. I think it was a simple case of the arithmetic, the ‘sums’ as we used to say when I attended primary school, not adding up correctly. And if Sandals, which was not contributing one Jamaican cent to the capital cost of the project, lending only its name, or brand in business-speak, and instead, stood to make tens of millions of US dollars per year in management fees, calculated that it was not worth the while, think of the fallout for Rowley from irate taxpayers of Trinidad and Tobago had he ploughed their money into it.
    It was a horror story waiting to unfold, so Sandals not only withdrew itself, but it rescued Rowley from shame, maybe political death, for which the PM should be eternally grateful.
    To start before the beginning, coining my own phrases, there were already rumblings from the environmentalists over the site selected that were sure to end up in the courts, lasting months, maybe years, going all the way to the Privy Council in the UK.
    If the construction phase eventually got off the ground, unless Government hired a Chinese contractor with workers and managers from China, and maybe allowed illegal Venezuelans on the site, Rowley might have seen his dream resort when he was an old man, if he lived to see it.
    Hell, it took what, 15 years to build a scaled-down Scarborough hospital that is still not equipped to handle all Tobagonians’ health problems. For 25 years or longer, government after government promised Tobago a decent airport terminal. Also, WASA has been working to rectify the island’s water woes for decades and they have little to show for all the wells drilled and reservoirs upgraded.
    Consider, too, the horrors of transporting construction materials and equipment from Trinidad to Tobago via a seabridge that is erratic at best, and non-functional all too often. Clearly, Butch Stewart saw an obstacle course lined with jeering, cantankerous ‘Gonians and Trinis”, mined with political booby traps, and decided he wanted out.
    Still, if there was the prospect of a bonanza lying beyond the gauntlet, he might have still pursued Rowley’s dream. After all, he must be one tough cookie to have built the multi-billion-dollar Sandals empire, the only Caribbean brand that has made its mark on the world stage…well, after Bob Marley.
    But the sums just weren’t addof ing up.
    You see, the perception that a Sandals resort could act as a catalyst for Tobago’s tourism sector, hence the island’s economy, is an illusion. When Tobagonians know that they are constitutionally entitled to four per cent of the country’s annual budgetary expenditure, what motivation is there for them to want to work in the hospitality industry where one must work, not
    ‘lahay’ on the job? Sandals officials who visited the island on several occasions must have noted that aversion to work, the tendency to associate service with servitude.
    This attitude must have partly informed their decision to steer clear of Paradise Lost. Such turn-offs would sully Sandals’ reputation as the ultimate holiday experience, and negatively impact its attraction that spans the world.
    If Paradise got lost somewhere back in time, all is not lost with tourism in Tobago, once we come to grips with the stark realities of the industry. It is seen as one of the growth poles of the global economy, contributing approximately four per cent of GDP. The Caribbean has improved its share of the pie, attracting approximately 30 million stay-over visitors annually, 27 million cruise-line passengers. Tourist spend was estimated at US$37 billion in 2017, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
    Two points to note: T& T is way down the ladder in tourist arrivals (412,000 in 2014) in contrast to many the smaller islands: Aruba (one million, pop 165,000), the Bahamas (1.5 million, pop 395,000), Curacao (450,000, pop 160,000), St Maarten (500,000, pop 40,000).
    Per capita, these destinations, and others, are way ahead of T& T, and if one extracts Tobago’s numbers, they are grimmer (I heard someone say international arrivals for this high season thus far was around 24,000). Sandals cannot magically multiply those numbers, nor can the airport and sea-bridge facilities shoulder most of the blame. Many hoteliers keep whining over their plight of low occupancy, but do nothing to upgrade or promote their businesses.
    The second point I raise is this: given our heavy dependence on imported goods, especially food and beverages, we are a prime candidate for leakage of foreign currency generally, but especially in tourism. Several studies have shown where and how small island developing states lose an average of 65 cents on every dollar earned.
    Had the Sandals Tobago deal been sealed, the resort would have had to pay the parent company hefty fees, in US dollars, for use of name and management of the facilities. It would also pay, in foreign currency, the salaries of all management and other personnel hired by Sandals. Similar contracts exist with Hyatt and Hilton International.
    So while there is nothing wrong with pursuing tourism, especially in Tobago, we must be mindful of the many pitfalls in the industry. Losing Sandals may well be a blessing undisguised: let the private sector own and operate such enterprises.

  7. Victory of Tobago’s hairy-leg crab


    The Southern Tobago Fault System running through what used to be the Sandals development site.

    -From a Geological Map of Tobago by AW Snokes and Colleagues, 1997.

    CONTRARY to what Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had promised, it is the hairyleg crab of the Buccoo Reef Marine Park (BRMP) and Bon Accord Lagoon that has emerged as victorious in the battle with Sandals for Buccoo.

    Sandals and the T& T Government-which, it seems, was willing to do or give whatever was requested of it in order to keep the purveyor of all-inclusive holidays onboard-made the wrong decisions from the start and has only itself to blame for what turned into a failure.

    In 2016, Sandals’ Butch and Adam Stewart were flown around Tobago in a helicopter and given the opportunity to pick the best site for the resorts. They were shown Englishman’s Bay, but decided it was too far from the airport. They were not offered the loss-making, Government-owned Magdalena Grand.

    The Stewarts chose Buccoo instead and were given sound advice they perhaps chose to ignore.

    They were told where Angostura had been given permission to build its resort and where it had been refused. They were specifically advised against planning a Beaches resort in the Ramsar mangroves.

    Perhaps they ignored that advice and produced the map featured in the Express story, ‘The map that sold Sandals’.

    So it is not surprising that a resort at odds with the country’s National Environmental Policy, the National Wetlands Policy, in a Protected Natural Area in the Protected Areas Systems Plan for Trinidad and Tobago should be given so many hurdles to jump by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA). Hurdles that Sandals simply could not clear.

    In part one of the Express series ‘Sandals Secrets Revealed’, ‘Rowley’s bogey’ examined the environmental obstacles being placed in front of Sandals and the Government in the form of a 14-page letter from the EMA demanding further information for the Certificate of Environmental Clearance application.

    The EMA letter highlighted the difficulties and complexities that lay ahead of the protagonists in order to get their project through to the next stage, terms of reference for the Environmental Impact Assessment.

    Those answers were due on February 1, 2019. Clearly, that information, and the extreme level of detail demanded, was never going to be provided in less than two weeks’ time. At the news conference, it was claimed the footprint had not even been decided.

    It is not as though Sandals had not been warned about the location it had chosen by many people, environmental groups and specialists.

    I wrote to Sandals on November 9, 2018, with a long list of questions,

    and concluded it by saying: ‘I ask you these questions, and put forward this information, in all sincerity. It seems Sandals wants to help Tobago and sees great opportunities for itself and the people of the island.

    ‘The trouble is that you are making these objectives much more difficult by choosing to build your resort in a protected ecosystem.

    ‘So I ask again: surely, somewhere on beautiful Tobago, Sandals can find a better location to build something that will help the island and not endanger two of its prime ecological assets? Assets it simply cannot afford to lose.’

    That-like many other questions over many e-mails-was never answered. Among those The site that was proposed for Sandals.

    Geological Map of Tobago

    were the suitability of the most polluted bay in Tobago for the setting of its two luxury resorts.

    Sandals CEO Gebhard Rainer’s claims of being ‘badgered’ about environmental responsibility are disingenuous.

    If by that he means being asked in a series of e-mails from this journalist about squaring Sandals’ claims of an environmental ethos being a core value of its brand with a proposed 820-room resort in the Ramsar-listed Buccoo Reef Marine Park/Bon Accord Lagoon Complex, and on top of the Buccoo Marsh, then I plead guilty.

    According to Rainer, the adverse publicity the project was attracting was tainting the Sandals brand.

    For a company that once sponsored the Sandals Caribbean Eco-Journalism Awards, it could not, in all seriousness, tout its environmental credibility while building in the mangroves. And, in the end, it knew it. That is what tainted the brand-the negative publicity it won’t admit to.

    And there is another reason that Golden Grove Buccoo was the wrong location.

    The Express can reveal that the Sandals resort in Tobago directly straddled the Southern Tobago Fault System. The map shown above, a Geological Map of Tobago by AW Snokes and Colleagues (1997), clearly illustrates the earthquake fault line running right through the middle of Sandals’ resort in Golden Grove Buccoo.

    A source told me this information ‘has huge implications for the build cost of the resort’ because it would have to design for ‘very high earthquake impact’.

    Had the Government and Sandals factored in the extra construction costs this extra vulnerability might have necessitated? Were they even aware such a fault runs through the development site?

    The info was available

    Those issues were put to both parties on December 11, 2018, as part of a wider series of questions, along with a copy of the map featured here. They were asked: ‘Were you aware of the project sitting on this most vulnerable fault line? Has either party taken this extra vulnerability into account

    when factoring in seismic building code costs over and above the minimum required? In T& T there are no enforceable building codes in law.’

    No comment on the earthquake fault system was received from Sandals or Minister Stuart Young. Sandals was prompted again to reply to this question a few days later, but never did so.

    According to UWI’s Seismic Research Centre (SRC), of the three fault zones in T& T, the SW Tobago Fault System is the most vulnerable to earthquakes, with shallow depths generally less than 15km. It says ‘it is the only fault with which earthquakes have been confidently associated’.

    On April 22, 1997, a magnitude-6.1 quake struck, causing $18 million worth of damage to southern Tobago.

    In her paper, ‘Eastern Caribbean Earthquakes- Past, Present and Future; Implications for Trinidad & Tobago’, Dr Joan Latchman of UWI’s SRC says ‘research into the 1982 Tobago earthquakes revealed the potential for earthquakes in the magnitude range 6.0 to 6.9. Further research has strengthened the case for even larger-magnitude earthquakes near Tobago’.

    Dr Latchman confirmed her ‘research has been on the SW Tobago Fault System and both my theses may be referenced here at the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) and the Main Library at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus. Copies are also with both disaster preparedness agencies in Trinidad and Tobago’.

    ‘Therefore,’ she said, ‘those charged with the responsibility to progress this (Sandals) development have the current, relevant science available to guide their decision-making.’

    But did they?

    If Sandals and the Government didn’t know their project lay in the middle of an earthquake fault zone-and it was my information they didn’t-they were made aware by this newspaper, but declined to answer any questions about it.

    The question of that fault line is more significant now that Sandals has suddenly announced it is pulling out of Tobago. It would be enlightening if it would care to comment. https://www.trinidadexpress.com/business/local/victory-of-tobago-s-hairy-leg-crab/article_d2218266-1c4e-11e9-a1d8-af819813d766.html

  8. Here is a brief clip of what the Antigua prime minister thought of the secret deal Sandals negotiated there.

    • Lasana Liburd hence why Sandals skipped town changing administration changing rules. We are the negotaitors thier bad deal does mean we have to follow. Instead we are patting ourselves on for giving ourselves nothing. PS this administator is now the tax write offs we have been giving energy sector for years to our disadvantage, yet no kudos.

    • Lasana Liburd ????? Cmon now.. I know we aren’t looking for examples from outside where Intl companies use leverage to negotiate better terms and conditions for themselves…… Oil and Gas… Never going to say it’s right but you can see where smaller countries in the region may have been taken advantage of because they had no leverage or little at all. Same with out old oil regime and those pscs

    • Joel we did nothing but ask for information which is the right of any buyer. Sandals bolted, as is their right if they think that we would not like what is behind the curtain.

    • Makesi we are such a great big country known for advantageous deals of course. Pat yourself on the back for that hubris.
      And yet Sandals have gone because we asked for information.
      You can shed tears if you want. I won’t join you.

    • Lasana Liburd no you misinterpreted my comment.. I’m saying we have similar horror stories.. Predominantly from our offshore oil fields in the past. Even the ALNG deal could have been better for us. We did better on the platform arrangements

    • Okay Makesi. Sorry if I misread you.

    • Makesi Alexander care to elaborate on how the Alng deal could have been better for us.

    • Brian Harry sure.. Trinidad and Tobago through NGC is part owner of ALNG. However, we the country only own 10% in Train 1, 0% in Trains 2 and 3, and only 11% in Train 4. When I did a study years ago, we were the only country that produced lng that had such a low percentage of the product. Now what’s the problem with that….. Bcuz of share is so low, we have no control over where the lng is marketed… So say if South Korea is fetching best price globally and UK is lower… Guess where the shipment goes.. You guessed it UK.. That’s bcuz BG and BP own majority shares.. So a lower lng price means lower royalties. If we owned one train.. We’d have that rapid rail project or become totally corrupt from having too much money

    • Makesi Alexander I’m not at liberty to discuss ALNG details here but I know that story intimately, you only have a small piece of the story. Markets and commodity dynamics evolve and so shifts have to be made. That’s a hint.

    • Brian Harry ??? I know.. My South Korea EXAMPLE might be tmi. I have no factual knowledge of any lng shipments…. Price or destination

  9. Consider this too. I get permission to open an all inclusive hotel in Barbados and create a self-contained village inclusive of a superb beach and with great tax breaks for myself.
    Tourists land at Bridgetown airport and are taxied straight to my hotel where they stay within those walls for four days before leaving. At best, there is a day for an island tour in maxis I provide and possibly own.
    How much does Barbados benefit really from my all-inclusive resort? How much ‘trickle down’ there is there exactly? What does the expected spike in tourists do for the economy of Barbados if 95 percent of their spending is done at my all-inclusive hotel?

    • Make sense Afra Raymond and Jessica Joseph?

    • But don’t those already exist? And 2. Do you know that to be the model of this hotel?

    • Makesi of course they exist. And we should be wary of it.
      If you didn’t know, there are other Sandals elsewhere so we can get an idea of their model.
      But I think you’re hinting at some special knowledge. So do enlighten us. What can YOU tell us about the model of the hotel?

    • Lasana Liburd but you’ve alluded to the one in Grenada. I just came back from st Lucia where 3 Sandals resorts are operating. I say all that to say, we don’t have to guess or speculate* what our experience could have been. This is a circus. We are our own worst enemies at times.

    • Makesi if I told you to invest just $50,000 of your hard earned money into a hotel idea I have, whose responsibility is it to be clear about the hotel model I want to introduce?
      Should that be your responsibility to find out? Or my responsibility to tell you how your tax dollars would be spent?
      Whose fault is it exactly that people are forced to speculate?

    • Lasana Liburd again, why speculate? Is that exactly what happened? Secondly if I tell you I can’t tell you because I don’t know just yet.. Where do we go from there?

    • Lasana Liburd ask d baijans cause dey live off tourism.

    • Makesi if you don’t know and I don’t know, then I’d say the Sandals project has a problem, right? If we don’t have the information necessary to make a decision to spend, then the sensible thing is to say ‘no thanks’.
      If our asking for the information we need leads to Sandals saying ‘eh… this isn’t for us’. Then we should be happy to bid them farewell.

    • Lasana Liburd was d Hyatt deal transparent?anybody renember?I remember that waterfront project had a lot of activity and Hyatt continues to be d preferred hotel in d city.

    • Lasana Liburd again.. Where is the response to.. ‘we aren’t there just yet’? Given the fact that hotels have been built before.. And this isn’t sandals first time building one. It seems to me the only people who had a difficulty in appreciating those responses were the ones who have never engaged those types of projects. Again I’m sure the good men at Point Lisas didn’t have all the answers, nor did the Children’s Hospital, NAPA, UWI South etc… Projects where we were going to be the main beneficiaries.. But guess what….

    • Collin Cudjoe there are lots of examples you can find here about non-transparent deals. And there are many examples of how taxpayers eventually pay through their noses too.

    • Lasana Liburd actually i am trying to find examples of transparency and i am not finding any.

    • Makesi that is on Sandals and the government. It is their job to make the case. They could have done so or left. They left.

    • Collin that’s why we should keep buying cat in bag? If you break the red light and survive, that should become normal practice?

    • Lasana Liburd well we await our next “squeaky clean”project.People forget land value for d point fortin project went up by 300% and more with buyers knowing exactly where d highway would pass long before construction. where was our new hero “Afro” then?

    • Collin Cudjoe or the construction of apartments for UWI south.. Anyway.. Punisher on Netflix

    • Collin Cudjoe I want to believe we all want the same thing.. Regardless of who gets us there. While I maintain that wasnt the case for this issue bcuz of politics etc, it surely was the case this discussion. Have a good evening all.

    • Collin asking for information is too fussy? Do you treat your money that way when you’re deciding what to spend on?
      Thankfully there were people who also felt we should not buy cat in bag. And the cat has left.

    • i like how u played down d whole thing. i hope when” plant like substanc and 2 pull”get back in power allyuh investigate with d same vigor cause ah Brazilian company gone with all we money “i am advised.

    • Makesi Alexander ‘Just trust me’ doesn’t work anymore. Don’t ask the public for money without a well thought out business plan and environmental impact study. It is disrespectful to do so.

    • Jo Ann no it stop working with Sandals it go start back with Kamala.

    • Collin Cudjoe Time to use both wings together to raise the country out of chaos and onto a better path. Tourists are now choosing the safer destination, one that provides sun, sand and sea, AND cares for the environment.

    • Collin Cudjoe ? I hope you are wrong but it looks like you are spot on. They two parties may never work in harmony for the good of the country. Sad ☹️

    • Collin Cudjoe thankfully my work speaks for itself so I don’t need to tell you whether my ethics change according to who is in power. I hope you can say the same one day.

    • In my humble opinion ….Start with the infrastructure that is already there like how Sunwing purchased the Turtle Beach hotel and is turning it into a 5 Star hotel and offering 7-14 day holidays. That is approx.. 150 new heads coming to Tobago every week. They are moving around the island hiring taxis and spending money. Sunwing is also interested in buying the Magdalena …. so encourage them by offering an incentive. This idea of building new will not work for Tobago. Sunwing is a huge charter airline and we keep forgetting the potential that they can have. Politicians like building new for the opportunity to fill their pockets with back room deals. With a foreign company like Sunwing hiring local contractors and with a foreign project manager the opportunity to embezzle is less. I believe that it will turn around with that type of deal… foreign investment in current infrastructure is needed now …

    • Jo Ann won’t a study and a request for funding go hand in hand? If so, what did the country hear about? Was there ever a request for money? If so.. How much and when. Why make claims based off of assumptions

    • Can anyone point out a single decision for a capital project where the government needed to follow an established process and totally disregarded it?

    • Everyone in this chat can cite examples of the manifestation of their Sandals fears. Yall really comparing the two? Or acting as if it’s like for like?

    • Lasana Liburd not a pnm sorry.journalists have all d questions but no answers.and at d end of d day nutin gets done.?

    • Lasana Liburd this is what a lot of people don’t seem to get. The opportunity for earnings actually only really come with what I call the outliers. That is, agriculture and there farmers providing products and we all know that this model doesn’t work in so many examples. That sector needs to be strong and very organized otherwise Sandals or any other all-inclusive hotel will import. They have their own set ways to get around not giving back to the societies they’re supposed to be contributing towards.

      This also means that governments must not include import of agricultural products as part of the ‚low or no concessions‘ agreement.

      The agricultural sector failed miserably with this model in Cancun, Mexico. Farmers eventually also dealt directly with the hotels because the agricultural ministry or association was riddled with middle men taking most profits still leaving farmers poor.

      I think the examples that worked are rare.

  10. Why do the majority of citizens.. We/us/them believe Sandals was being built primarily for our use? Smh

    • Can you back up your claim that the ‘majority of citizens’ think so? Or is that just more made up numbers?

    • Lasana Liburd my numbers are as factual as the confirmed tax breaks and 8 billion dollar cost. But seriously it’s coming from the majority of comments, concerns and op-ed pieces

    • Makesi I don’t know either way how many people think that. It would be ironic though. Because politicians usually benefit from the ignorance of the public. And a lot of the ignorance regarding this potential deal is arguably the fault of the ruling party to begin with.

    • Lasana Liburd remove Sandals and exchange it with Point Lisas or ALNG in Point Fortin. We trinis have a hard time understanding that not everything we can benefit from has to be for us to use. So if we are ever to get serious about tourism stop talking about it like we are the ones being targeted

    • Lasana Liburd that’s a cop out. People feel how they feel regardless. I just think they got beat in a shouting match. Everyone likes the idea in ‘principle’ but have a problem with it…worst part is that the problems can be fixed.

    • It is the seller’s job to explain the cost and benefits in any arrangement. If Sandals had a good deal and explained it properly, we would not be where we are now.
      They did not.
      A cop out is blaming others for the wrongs of Sandals and the ruling party.

    • Makesi Alexander I don’t believe many people think sandals was being built for domestic use. Seriously… How many locals can afford to stay at such high end places. It was always about attracting foreign tourists (and foreign exchange). The main thing locals were expecting to get out of it was jobs. Crumbs which may or may not have come.

    • Rose-Marie Lemessy-Forde I’d like to disagree.. The main thing was never jobs.. Infact if you took a poll I’d bet that the biggest issue would be consultation followed by environmental concerns.. Again two issues that still could have been resolved before any pull out. Problem is we had more ‘concerns’.. Some were based off of . Yes the space indicates what those concerns were based off of. I was more an issue of when and not what.. Imagine I met you today and tommrow I’m asking you what do we name our first child…. How I reach deh? It’s not an issue of the question but when the question was posed

    • Jobs, environment, consultation/transparency… All very relevant questions.

    • Makesi Alexander the main point I was making wasn’t about the jobs issue. That is just one of many concerns Tobagonians had. I was disputing your assertion that many people think Sandals was being built for them (meaning domestic arrivals). That’s definitely not the case.

    • Rose-Marie Lemessy-Forde well we both have different opinions. Regardless I think our intentions are coming from the same place…. Progress. #stayblessed

  11. Hmm. I wonder how many people knew that we were putting up the money to build a sandals resort at an astronomical price. And then we would have to pay sandals to manage it! So if after all that expense there’s no great boom in arrivals to bring in much revenue what would be our position . A big expensive white elephant that domestic tourists can’t afford and foreign tourists not interested in. Sounds like we dodged a bullet

  12. Sandals is not simply a hotel but a brand that brings extensive recongition and with it a wealth trickle effects, increase foriegn exchange, tax breaks that would benefit all hoteliers on the island, employment, etc. We speak of environmental impact but without any new intatives that allow THA access fund outside of Central Government, THA ability regulate and protect ecosystems will eventually be seriously hampered. ( The lost the Gorilla population in the Congo is an example). The truth our leisurely approach really is our over confidence in the Oil and Gas to keep the party going, we are gonna spend our last days ” consulting with public”

    • You haven’t noticed the wealthy are getting better and better at making sure crumbs don’t fall off the table or ‘trickle down’ to the rest of us?
      The entire notion of ‘trickle down effects’ need to be revisited to see if it is even applicable now.

    • Lasana Liburd are they getting richer because we handing over money to them! Over price used cars and coffee to 600 dollar fetes. With no savings and mortgages that trap us in bondage.

    • Joel I’d say because the people who run the upstream business have hoovered up the downstream too. And then they use political strings to provide advantages in the market as well.
      And by the time you’re done, what’s left for anyone else?
      It’s like if a Chinese firm builds you a road using their material (or material they source from companies of their choice at their benefit), their management, their labour… Where is the benefit to us?

  13. In your opinion what is the way forward Lasana?

    • In terms of Tobago tourism? Maybe start with an efficient sea bridge… And a consultation with stakeholders there about the tourism industry… Perhaps an upgrade of Magdalena…
      The principle is you start by trying to make the most of what you have, properly identify what needs fixing… And maybe then you’re ready to consider billion dollar projects, which would obviously be based on feasibility studies.
      Too radical?

    • Lasana Liburd I will add – start with defining a vision and a concept of what IS Tobago’s brand of tourism- it cannot be built around sun sand sea because we will be beaten by our neighbors with more miles of white sand beaches and clear water. Figure what are OUR comparative advantages and create some conceptual models. Seek differentiation amongst our peer group destinations, which are not all Caribbean. Much of this work has been done. Time to start a wide and deep conversation

    • With all due respect, I think Lasan’a prescriptions lead to going nowhere. the funny thing is these things you want investigated don’t really assist the cause.

      1) on the efficiency of the sea bridge, even with the incomplete fleet that exists today, isn’t occupancy on trips reported to be BELOW 75%? That sounds like capacity is efficiently managed.

      2). The Sea Bridge would be an issue primarily for domestic tourism. Given the objective is to increase foreign visitors so that the forex spend is increased, why is there a focus on the sea (or air) bridge at all?

      3). The Tobago hoteliers have long made it clear what they want; cash subventions from the Govt. Given that the objective is also to eliminate the need for subventions, I guarantee a consultation with stakeholders isn’t going far.

      We keep going ‘round in circles. Talking incessantly without actually espousing ideas. Critiquing ideas espoused to death and then wondering why nothing changes.

    • We keep thinking that ‘we’ are the target client for Sandals or any island in the region where tourism is the major revenue earner. I agree Kwesi Prescod. If we decide to visit Sandals fine.. But their expectations and that of the govt aren’t primarily for us, same with the region…we all want foreign exchange…e.g. LNG

    • I don’t think that we are the target audience for Sandals at all Makesi Alexander. And because we don’t like one of the ideas from the Tobago hoteliers means we shouldn’t hear what else they have to say Kwesi Prescod?
      And the consultation ought to go well beyond the hoteliers anyway. Because tourism in Tobago affects far, far more than just hotel owners. Let’s hear from the other stakeholders too.

    • Lasana Liburd happy that you raise the point about the net of consultation. It has been a long practiced mistake to believe that tourism stakeholders are only the folks who work in the industry. We are all stakeholders. Why? One benefit of consultation is to solicit buy-in. To the extent that we all as citizens own the product and WE ALL present it to the world as our “gift”, we must be able to define it and speak on it with whoever and wherever. For some of the leading destinations across the world, the citizenry represent the most powerful brand advocacy!!

    • I hear you there… but the consultations are annual – they do make presentations for the Budget

    • Kwesi I don’t know about the scale of such consultations. I’m open to be educated on that.
      But I’m skeptical that there is enough depth to that.
      For instance, I’d say I’m a stakeholder in sport. In my life, I’ve only once been invited to any sport related consultation by the govt. And even then, it was a reactive sham. Nobody so much as took minutes.

    • Lasana Liburd what about the marketing of the destination especially since this is the last island in the Caribbean chain?

    • Dianne, there is nothing to stop us from marketing ourselves. Sandals would push to get visitors to their resort and we have to see how much than benefits us and if it would be worth it considering what we are giving up for that.
      And the answer to that question remains inconclusive at best.

    • https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10156725884495610&id=377693645609

      Lasana I’m not sure if you saw this but I suggest you go to about 7:30 in the vid if you can’t watch the whole thing. Chris James, CEO of the Tobago Hotel & Tourism Association explains it. Would like to hear your feedback on this.

    • Peter Corbie, nice anecdotal evidence with an absolute absence of figures taken from one island, run on a government owned station delivered by a man who admits he has been lobbying to have Sandals here for the last two years.
      Why would I not be convinced by that right?

    • ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?. Are you dismissing the Hotel Association rep as well?

    • Makesi I went straight to 7:30. Haven’t time to listen to the whole thing.
      What is your case going to be exactly? That Trinidad and Tobago didn’t want a great deal?
      If you have a great product and your prospective buyer isn’t interested, where do you think the fault lies?

    • Lasana Liburd I’m just making observations. That’s all I can do.

    • Makesi seems like you have gone to a discussion with one idea and are in danger of leaving with nothing but what you turned up with.
      Which is ironic considering your criticisms in the first place. But hardly uncommon on social media.

    • Lasana Liburd ? ? ? ?. Do tell. You’ve been consistent in misunderstanding me, I’ll give you that

    • Lasana Liburd are you aware that Sandals was in Tobago in 2013 and was badly treated. That was said on Power 102 by Demi Cruickshank last week and confirmed this morning by Theresa Hadad on Fazeer’s programme this morning

    • You keep looking for absolutes from me… None exist because nothing is perfect. I’d go a step further and suggest that nothing can be perfect in an imperfect world. Take that however you want it

    • Dianne then maybe Tobago is not for them. “Badly treated”? I don’t know what that means or why it is relevant.
      Nobody owes anyone anything. We will survive and so will they.

    • Leslie Gray we would love to hear more on this if you can spare the time. If you’re interested, please email me at lasana@wired868.com. Thanks.

    • Lasana Liburd he/she made sensible contribution on issue, definitely need more ppl to engage in discussion outside of rhetoric sold.

    • Lasana well I’m glad that you connect with Leslie Gray so maybe the discussion will revert to some semblance of intelligent discussion rather that the BS I was reading. Leslie is on point. Some of these suggestions and some quantitative analysis (where appropriate) to back it up and examples of other places where these initiatives are bearing fruit are captured in the appendices of the last tourism master plan that was done.

    • Lasana Liburd yuh intellectualism isn’t making sense at all. I saw the first comment about “sea and air-bridge” and wasn’t too “enthused” to read all the rest coming down. It’s late and I’m tired now.
      Sea and air bridge is related to Sandals? By the time that project woulda been completed, there would’ve been two new ferries and an improvement is expected by then. You foresee something else?
      When things were smoother on the sea bridge, what “positive” impact it had on the industry, especially where international arrivals are and the occupancy rate are concerned?
      We only get an arrival of 19,000 and an occupancy rate of about 30%.
      None of you “bright” people don’t see Sandals impacting on that, if Grenada is attracting 500,000 annually and a high occupancy rate, through an improved airlift?
      St. Lucia and Barbados attracting the 1 million mark and the Bahamas 30,000 in one month? Come on nah man.

    • Garvin you’re thinking about Sandals. I’m thinking about Tobago.
      Because of our different starting points, you see the sea bridge as irrelevant. You see I never said the sea bridge has anything to do with Sandals.
      There is a lot of discussion on this thread and you can read for the various opinions if you care to know more about what people think though.

    • As for your reference to my “intellectualism”, I’m very much a layman on tourism and the hotelier business.
      I do know a bit about transparency and the pluses and minuses thereof though.

    • Yeah, but why are you behaving as if the sea-bridge issues is not being addressed? Is the government just sitting back and let it be?
      Remember you said, that has to be addressed first, before anything else.
      The ironic thing is, while two new vessels are under construction for delivery next year, the opposition is attempting to frustrate that too, with their style of devious politics, by writing the AG of Australia, implying that there’s no transparency in the arrangement.
      Clearly, they doh want that to work.

    • Lasana Liburd, I do admire the alternative facts presented by sickofans.
      Wasn’t that a ‘new’ multimillion dollar vessel purchased?
      To which the PM arrogantly responded to objections that it is not a fast boat?
      What they seem to be missing is everyone who disagrees with any govt initiative is ‘opposition’.
      As I raised elsewhere, were there voices objecting to any of the Malcolm Jones projects? How did those work out? Until when are we going to be paying?
      Were there objections to the BLCA? How did that work out? When are we going to see a return on that investment?
      Yet we are being told those who object to anything are unpatriotic, being called opposition.
      Last I check, we were still a demockracy, and the opposition still had a very important role to play. How/when/if they do it is another story.
      There has to be a special logic PNM sickofans have to conclude that Sandals would magically cure the issues with reliable air and sea transport, reliable supplies, etc.
      Unless they are admitting it is deliberately being sabotaged in the interim? So they can ‘magically’ cure all ills by 2020?

    • Kwesi Prescod of course it wouldn’t work if any government is going to just ask hoteliers what they need or want to do.

      Government needs to have experts on its side who guide the improvement of the entire sector to achieve maximum gain for all. Meaning, it takes the initiatives, it doesn’t wait for the people or interests to tell them which road to take. It rightly gets that input in the consultations. That’s when consultation and debate are used in achieving the goals.

      The manner in which this and several other projects are started results in the same broken record failures – because they’re not starting from the ground up repairing what already exists, improving what can, expanding what they could before launching on any brand new cash guzzler.

      The only elements this method satisfies is the government that can make people happy or give them false hope who don’t know better by wearing the project for the next elections and the very contractors and others who will feel the immediate but temporary huge benefits of work that the taxpayer is funding- all while the taxpayers is still scrunting and the majority is being mislead about what’s good for them or what they need.

    • Linda Louison and this operating in silos also does not add value to the sectors either.

    • Nerisha Mohammed exactly – it’s precisely about covering as many sectors as possible

    • Linda, but one could argue that the Government taking the initiative above and beyond the limited specified needs of the stakeholders is exactly what this Sandals initiative was.

      It is noteworthy that many lamenting their not coming were initially openly against the initiative. So minds were also swayed. Which means the communication may not have been that bad…

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