The highly-publicized US$400 million Beaches project being undertaken by Sandals Resorts International (SRI) remains in limbo, the northern site a ghost town.
However, Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds is still optimistic that the multi-million dollar project at the old Almond property in St Peter will be restarted.
His comments have come two months after Prime Minister Mia Mottley broke the news in Parliament that Government was not willing to grant Sandals the excessive concessions it was asking for.
Mottley revealed Sandals was seeking assurances and guarantees from Government over the next 40 years.
The Beaches project was originally expected to get off the ground in January, but has since come to a halt with the two sides failing to reach an agreement.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY Wednesday following a meeting at Government headquarters, Symmonds said no progress had been made since the Prime Minister’s announcement in March.
“There has been no movement yet and discussions are continuing. The position is identical to the one we were in when the Prime Minister would have spoken during the Budget.
“As you know the Attorney General would have been in contact with the legal representatives of Sandals [and] I am not sure that there has been any fundamental movement from Sandals’ side and certainly there hasn’t been any from ours,” Symmonds explained.
“The doors of discussion are open but I certainly haven’t had any communication from them since the Budget would have taken place and I haven’t heard that the Prime Minister has had either.”
But the Minister said he would be surprised if Sandals did not reach out to Government with the intention of restarting the project as it had already invested significantly in the Beaches.
“It’s at a temporary standstill but obviously it can’t remain that way. The process was overtaken by the investment conference we had here two to three weeks ago. I would imagine that following the expressions of interests there, there will probably be some knowledge on Sandals’ part that Barbados is still very committed to opening its doors to investment and I would imagine that would move any wise investor to get on board, but I have not heard from them yet,” an upbeat Symmonds said.
“I’m optimistic though, because a lot of work was put into the preparatory stages of that project, so it would not surprise me at all if Sandals still maintains a very strong interest. We toured down there in October, the Prime Minister and I, and they were doing a lot of clean-up work on the beach and they had a soft opening where they said that they just wanted a period of time before they could start doing recruiting on the ground here, then this new issue arose.
“I understand it is a financial concern from their end [and] they have to come to an understanding of what our position is. I believe that has been made very clear here in Barbados and across the region and I guess they now have to make some tough decisions as to what they’re going to do,” the Minister maintained.