Antigua inks hotel agreement with Sandals

Published: Wednesday | December 4, 2013 Comments 0
Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International. - File
Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International. - File

The Antigua & Barbuda government and Sandals Resorts International have signed a memorandum of understanding for a hotel project that Finance Minister Harold Lovell said would be the first project executed under the soon-to-be introduced tax incentives bill.

"This legislation provides significant concessions to encourage investment in tourism," Lovell said.

The Tourism and Business Special Incentives Act 2013 is being formulated to "sunset" after a period, he said.

Lovell said that the US$150- million Beaches resort project will replace the Grande Pineapple Resort.

The Beaches brand is owned by Sandals Resorts.

"This investment will triple the employment currently in the Pineapple property from 180 jobs to over 700 jobs. In addition, during the construction phase, we expect to have another 250 jobs," he said.

Sandals Chairman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart was, however, critical of regional governments which he said were taxing the hotel and tourism industry out of existence.

"People believe and governments believe that you can have an unlevel playing field and yet expect people to invest," he said.

"Look at the Caribbean, island by island. How much quality development have you seen in the last 10 years in hotels very, very few. "How many new cruise ships have you seen a lot," said Stewart.

"I don't know of anybody that wants to buy a basket of taxes that the government of Antigua or Bahamas feel like putting on their product, call it export, try to get business to come and stay with us."

But Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said while he was aware of the criticisms levelled against the governments, it was equally important for the region to revive their economies.

"You have heard some quite honest, straightforward comments from Butch about his concept of the whole tax issue, and we are very mindful of that ... but we had to put our house in order first in order for us to be able to do that."

The Beaches resort was first announced in June 2011 but was plagued by opposition-sanctioned protests from vendors in the Long Bay area who felt the resort would affect their trade.

Last October, Stewart announced that he was putting the project on hold because of the political wrangling.

-CMC



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