The Trinidad and Tobago government says the construction of the 750 room Sandals and Beaches Resort represents a major turning-point for the economy of Tobago.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, delivering the TT$51.7 billion national budget to Parliament on Monday said that the hotel will be owned by Trinidad and Tobago and equity partners and is in keeping with the objectives of the newly established Tobago Tourism Agency that is already developing and marketing the Tobago tourism product as a leisure-based location.
“Within this framework, the Sandals Golden Grove Tobago Project represents a major turning-point for the economy of Tobago. The Sandals and Beaches Resort will be built at Buccoo/ Golden Grove,” Imbert said, adding that it will be managed and operated by Sandals Resorts International.
He said the resort will have approximately 500-750 rooms and up to 2,000 permanent employees with significant linkages to the local economy.
“The economic impact of Sandals will be substantial, including estimated income to the Government of US$80 million per year in taxes and other payments. The project will add significant value to the tourism industry as we continue our drive towards sustainable economic development and diversification away from oil and gas,” Imbert told legislators.
He said the Keith Rowley government was also at an advanced stage of securing an internationally-recognized brand operator for the Tobago-based 198 room Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort, in the context of the December 31, 2018 expiry of the lease of the existing operator.
“We are targeting operations and brands which would manage the hotel under a model which will deliver a combination of a European plan with the guests having the freedom to explore local restaurants, shops and excursions and an all-inclusive plan.”
Imbert said they are being assisted by the Canadian-based company, CBRE Hotels, and last month three investors conducted site visits in Tobago and submitted proposals.
“With the contract expiry date of December 31, 2018 for the existing operator, we are making tremendous efforts to have in place on January 1, 2019 an internationally recognized brand manager for the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort,” Imbert said.
The Finance Minister said that induced demand from the two hotels will attract a higher level of airlift and that the construction of a new terminal at the ANR Robinson International Airport is being undertaken utilizing a build-own lease-transfer model.
He said the construction would involve all airside infrastructure works, inclusive of apron taxi way and aircraft parking, a new car park, a new access road and modernization and upgrade of the existing terminal.
“The new terminal building will support much higher levels of airlift and international demand and bring tremendous benefits for the Tobago economy. This project is expected to be completed by the end of 2020,” Imbert said, adding that the government was also engaged in improving the sea bridge situation between the two islands.
He said plans are for the acquisition of two new state of the art fast ferries scheduled to arrive in mid-2020 in addition to the existing fast ferry, the TT Spirit, and the Galleons Passage.
Imbert said Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) has been strengthening the air bridge.
The new ferries are being procured from the Australian-based companies, Austal and Incat.
“One fast ferry will have a capacity of 926 passengers and 250 cars and trucks and is designed to sail at a speed of 37.5 knots per hour and the second ferry will have a capacity for 1,000 passengers and 357 cars and trucks with a speed of 39.5 knots per hour. Both ferries will make the trip to and from Trinidad and Tobago in 2 1/2 to 3 hours,” Imbert said.
Debate on the budget begins on Friday.