Local business magnate Ralph Bizzy Williams is strongly defending his involvement in the Sandals takeover of two former Almond hotel properties in Barbados.
The Williams Industries boss told Barbados TODAY he was instrumental in the globally branded chain coming to this country to operate the former Casuarina Hotel property at Dover, Christ Church, and Almond Beach Village in St Peter.
“I have been associated with Sandals now for over 30 years. I know Mr [Gordon “Butch] Stewart [Sandals chairman] personally. He and I are very close; and to be honest wid yuh, I tell yuh it straight. Mark Maloney is who called me and asked me to see wuh I could do to get he to come to Barbados,” Williams stated.
“And as a result of that request from Mark Maloney, I met with the Minister of Finance and called Mr Stuart and asked him to come to Barbados. So you could hold me responsible.
“I am very proud of the fact that he is here, and that we gine have a fantastic hotel at Heywoods when it is rebuilt; and it gine liven up the hotel industry in Barbados,” asserted the prominent business leader.
He is saying that the benefits to Barbados would ten times outweigh the extensive suite of tax concessions which Government had granted to Sandals for taking over and stamping its global brand on Casuarina and Almond Beach Village.
In a letter dated November 5, 2013, and signed by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, Sandals International has been given a 25-year tax holiday in respect of the acquisition, expansion, development and operation of the former Casuarina Hotel property.
The Jamaican-based international chain has been granted a waiver of all import duties, taxes, imposts and levies of any nature, including Value Added Tax on imports or local purchases.
Among the specific items for full relief are all capital goods, such as building materials, articles of hotel equipment, furniture, furnishings, fixtures, consumables for the operation of the hotel, including, but not limited to operating supplies, soft furnishings, printed materials, food, alcohol and beverage.
Other tax free concessions are on all vehicles required for the operation of the facility, including vehicles assigned to senior managers, personal and household effects and vehicles for staff who are contracted to work in Barbados and are not citizens or permanent residents of the island.
When the 25-year tax holiday is ended, the rate on concessions to Sandals will be cut by 50 per cent for an additional 15 years.
“I am absolutely delighted that they come to Barbados; and that people who’re working at Casuarina will now have the opportunity to work for one of the best hotel chains in the world. They will receive good training, they will receive good pay, and numerous ancillary services in Barbados will have an opportunity to earn some money,” declared Williams.
Meanwhile, some local hoteliers are expressing mixed feelings about the extensive suite of tax concessions granted to Sandals International. But while former Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association president Alvin Jemmott admits that local properties benefit from most of the relief already, he said the waiver on food, alcohol and beverages would cause some concern, particularly for other all-inclusive hotels.
Jemmott, who is general manager of Divi Southwinds, told Barbados TODAY that hoteliers did not now get any tax concessions on these items. He said that for years, all-inclusive hotels had been seeking relief without success, basing their case on the premise that this model, amounted to their way of doing business, where all food and drink were included in the price of accommodation.
He noted that the alternative model allowed the hotel to charge separate rates for different services.
“The first people who will be disadvantaged will be the all-inclusive hotels,” Jemmott added. “I would love to get that tax concession for food, alcohol and beverages,” the prominent hotel administrator said.
He added that some of his colleagues were also concerned whether they would benefit from the similar range of waivers as Sandals.
Another hotelier, however, was of the view, that if the lobby by the sector was done correctly, there was no reason why the Government would not grant similar relief to all local operators.
In a separate interview, general manager of Amaryllis, Evan Gooding, told Barbados TODAY that Sandals would be a good player for the local hotel sector, in that it had a great market in the United States and the concessions were intended to attract visitors here. However, he said the waivers should be given to all hotels seeking to do the same things as Sandals, including tax-free food and raw materials.
“There is no point in making any negatives in the hotel industry [by Government] at this time,” he stated.