The Gordon Butch Stewart-owned Sandals Resorts International has come out swinging against those it said were engaged in another attempt to spread misinformation and unsubstantiated claims about the Jamaica-headquartered hotel chain.
In a three-and-a-half page written statement issued today from its Montego Bay base, Sandals suggested that this latest “fake news” included a “totally sensationalized” headline regarding recent remarks by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who last week told the annual general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association that the current system of managing concessions under the Tourism Development Act (TDA) was anything but fair. It did not indicate which headline to which it referred, or which newspaper carried the headline.
Mottley had told the gathering of industry stakeholders that what the concessions had essentially done was to create three classes of hoteliers in the country.
“Those like Sandals that get everything without consultation . . . those who have to come to the Ministry of Tourism, and I believe every two weeks the Ministry of Tourism is taken up with having to push paper, which is nonsense, and then those who don’t even get anywhere near the Ministry of Tourism or anywhere near the concessions because their cash flow has been such that they had difficulties in being able to meet basic statutory requirements and as a result therefore they are precluded from being a beneficiary of any of those concessions,” Mottley said.
She also said to loud applause that “one of the early things the Ministry of Tourism will be looking at is how to bring about greater equity as well as fairness and transparency in the management of those concessions under the Tourism Development Act”.
However, in response, Sandals said it was not, and had never been deterred by “fake news”, but rather appreciated the opportunity to set the record straight.
“First, we have, and have always had an amicable relationship with Prime Minister Mottley. The Prime Minister is aware that Sandals is completely open to working with her Government – as we have worked with governments throughout the region – to help move Barbados into a better and brighter future, because that ultimately is what is best for all of us,” the statement said, while going on to dismiss suggestions that it did not pay taxes.
“That is totally untrue. Sandals pays significant taxes in Barbados, including Value Added Tax,” the internationally-recognized hotel enterprise said.
In order to attract the renowned Jamaican hotel chain here, the then Freundel Stuart administration offered a 25-year tax holiday that included waiver on all imported duties, taxes, impost and levies on capital goods, such as building materials as well as food and beverages.
The controversial deal also included waiver on duties on the importation of motor vehicles and personal and household effects for senior hotel staff and non-Barbadian workers.
When the tax holiday period is over, Sandals will only be required to pay half the “applicable rates and taxes prevailing” for another 15 years.
The hotel chain in its statement today, defended the concessions.
“Our negotiations on concessions have always been completely transparent and open. It is because of these very same negotiations that many hoteliers have now been able to access concessions of their own for refurbishment and upgrades in what was a highly overtaxed sector,” Sandals emphasized, adding that it had been assured that in the last two years more refurbishments and modernization had been done in Barbados than in the last decade.
The hotel chain also sought to make out a case for its loyalty and commitment to Barbados.
“It is Sandals that has given the clearest signal to the world that it is good to invest in destination Barbados at a time when many others are intent only on singing songs of gloom and doom,” it said.