Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
TRINIDAD AND Tobago conglomerate Neal & Massy has reportedly sold the former Couples Resort Barbados to Sandals Resorts International (SRI) for an estimated US$42 million.
Couples has been leasing the former Almond Casaurina Beach Resort since February, with an option to buy and the right of first refusal; however, the organisation's deputy chairman, Paul Issa, said the decision was taken not to exercise that right.
The acquisition has cleared the way for Sandals to make its debut into another Caribbean island. The Couples property is one of two resorts that the Gordon 'Butch' Stewart outfit will operate in the eastern Caribbean island.
In addition to the opening of Sandals Barbados, SRI also announced that an agreement has been reached with the Barbados government regarding the building of a brand-new Beaches Resort at the site of former Almond Beach Resort in St Peter, Barbados.
Couples reportedly spent US$3 million to transform its facilities.
"It was in our agreement that we would have been refunded for all capital improvements, if and when the property was sold to another company other than ours," Issa told The Gleaner on Thursday.
He said it was unfortunate that Couples could not have continued leasing the property, but the decision taken was in its best interest.
TO HONOUR COMMITMENTS
According to Stewart, Sandals' chairman, the 10-acre property would open as a Sandals Luxury Included Resort and would honour all existing commitments with guests who had booked to stay at Couples up until November 6.
In a media release, Stewart commented: "We are delighted to announce the opening of, not one, but two of our first-ever resorts in this wonderful country of Barbados. Barbados and its people are so rich in culture, charm and personality and [the country] has been one of the leaders in Caribbean tourism for decades. We have been in discussions to bring our award-winning brands to this country for some time and we are thrilled that negotiations have now been successfully concluded.
"In the former Couples Resort, I strongly believe that we have acquired one of the most beautiful properties in the entire island and we cannot wait to bring the full Luxury Included experience here."
Upon opening as Sandals Barbados, the resort will offer a selection of accommodations that range from beachfront suites to exquisite rooms situated in the resort's lush tropical garden. A programme of enhancements will be launched in order to 'Sandalize' the property immediately.