The previous article delved into the published information on the three existing State-owned hotels and juxtaposed that with the proposals for a Tobago Sandals. Apart from the unsatisfactory position with the State’s existing hotel investments and the reluctance to give details, I also updated readers on the missing MoU for the Tobago Sandals project.
My dismal readings were based on the very limited publicly-available information, nothing else. I did not refer to any rumours or ‘inside information‘, my work is all based on the published record. The PM and his colleagues surely have ready access to a better quality and quantity of information than the public. That being the case, it begs the question as to what is really happening here.
If indeed, the Sandals project has significant upsides and benefits, those ought to have been estimated and shared by now. If the existing State-owned hotels are doing well, why aren’t the management agreements or accounts published? If those hotels are doing poorly, why are we persisting with that same model?
We need a proper examination of those existing hotels so that the Sandals negotiations can take place on the basis of sound information. That is all I am saying.
On 13th June 2018, newly-elected Bajan, PM Mia Mottley QC, made a series of important statements on the issue of public concessions and subsidies in the hotel sector –
“In fact, she told a gathering of industry stakeholders…that what it had essentially done was to create three classes of hoteliers in the country.
“Those like Sandals that get everything without consultation, . . . those who have to come to the Ministry of Tourism…which is nonsense, and then those who don’t even get anywhere near the Ministry of Tourism…and as a result therefore they are precluded from being a beneficiary of any of those concessions,”…
However, while warning that it “cannot be the way”, the Prime Minister said to loud applause that “one of the early things the Ministry of Tourism will be looking at is how to bring about greater equity as well as fairness and transparency in the management of those concessions under the Tourism Development Act…”
Sandals responded with a four-page Press Release which was widely covered in the media and focused on the benefits which Sandals had brought to its Caribbean destinations. As always, my focus is on the decisive factor of the ‘underlying commercial arrangements‘ which are the real drivers of these large-scale, long-term developments.
My response to the Office of the Prime Minister is here –