St Michael North Member of Parliament Ronald Toppin has called on the Freundel Stuart administration to make public its agreement with Sandals Resorts.
Contributing to the debate in the House of Assembly on the Appropriations Bill 2016, Toppin charged that the accord signed between Government and the international hotel chain was “the most tightly guarded agreement”, while complaining that “a whole lot has been given to Sandals and the country has got relatively small in return.
“When a company could be granted a half-billion dollars in concessions, it is only right that Barbadians should be able to see the agreement,” argued Toppin.
“I believe it is by right that we see a copy of the agreement that entered into between the Government of Barbados and Sandals so that we can know what we might be in for,” he added.
The Opposition shadow spokesman on tourism described Sandals as “a state within a state”,
“At the 50th anniversary of our independence, we have Sandals here, the state within a state, a veritable animal farm, where all are equal, but one is more equal than others,” he charged, adding, “Sandals has done nothing in this country to build a tourism industry.”
However, he bitterly complained that the hotel chain had “extraordinary powers” and was “determined to dominate every single little thing”, including jet ski and other water sports activities.
“At the same time not one local tour operator can go on Sandals’ premises to try to solicit business, to carry somebody for a taxi ride or a tour anywhere. Nobody can go inside,” Toppin alleged, adding, “it is an all-inclusive with a big difference.”
Toppin also pointed out that while most all-inclusives came with two or three restaurants, but Sandals has 14, and was bringing it to Barbados “an offshore tourist, who does not mix with the average Barbadian”.
“The Sandals model is totally out of sync with the tourist industry that has operated in Barbados over the years. It might apply in other places where people are afraid to go out, but that is not so in Barbados.”
He said that the power and reach of Sandals was so strong that even business people seemed intimidated and were not saying anything in their defence.
“And the Government’s lips are sealed too,” he added.
However, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy rose to his feet in objection after Toppin charged that Sandals could build groynes in the sea “and the Coastal Zone Management [CZMU] people do nothing about it, or say nothing about it”.
Sealy said an application was made to the Town & Country Planning Department, which was commented on by the CZMU. (GA)