Tourism Minister still hopeful after Sandals Tobago withdrawal
Tourism Minister Honourable Randall Mitchell is expressing regret over the decision, by Sandals Resorts International, to withdraw from a proposed hotel project on the sister-island, Tobago.
“This is disappointing but not dispiriting. The dedication of the government remains. There will be renewed efforts to find initiatives to develop the tourism product in both Tobago and Trinidad,” Mitchell said.
In announcing the withdrawal during a news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, on Tuesday, Sandals CEO Gebhard Rainer also said the decision was taken after repeated inaccurate media reports on the proposed project.
Mitchell said there was “nothing untoward” about the Sandals MOU which was a non-binding document. He said the people of Tobago have “lost a tremendous opportunity” to boost the tourism sector, adding that Sandals would have been able to market the destination, attract an increase in airlifts and other arrivals and boost local business on the island via increased work for taxi drivers and others. Mitchell said the presence of Sandals on the island would have significantly boosted trade and earning potential for taxi drivers and farmers and other small businessmen on the island.
The Tourism Minister said the Government will continue to seek ways to diversify the economy and improve the Tobago tourism sector by attracting investment and world-class tourism operators to the island in the coming months and years.
Sandals was invited to Trinidad and Tobago to speak with a Government team, which included, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young on the project. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with a view to commencing negotiations for the project but that never happened. Rainer said there were “no signed agreements that would create or have created any liability on either party. “
He said both the Government and Sandals have “worked in good faith and on their own risk, there is no cost from sandals that would be passed on the Trinidadian Government.”