Did You or Milo Tell Them Comrade?

Submitted by Nathan ‘Jolly’ Green

Have Sandals been told the truth about Buccament Bay Resort? I ask the question because Ralph Gonsalves may just have forgot. Nothing to do with mendaciousness although that did cross my mind. So, did you tell them, comrade?

Have Sandals been warned that Buccament Bay Resort sits on an ancient and historic flood plain which has flooded several times in the memory of man? It last severely flooded in December 2013 when several employees of Buccament Bay Resort, then being operated by Harlequin, drowned. Also, several villagers perished in the flooding leaving the whole nation aghast.

There is no way to know when it will flood again, today, tomorrow, next week, next year, in ten years? There is absolutely no way of knowing and no way to prewarn when the flash flood will occur, night or day. If it happens again, or more positively when it happens again, because it will, as it has done for millions of years, people could die again. Perhaps once again when least expected guests and employees will perish.

Some rock filled gabions placed, and river defence have been carried out since the last flood. But that is, in my opinion, inadequate in containing the ferocity of the Buccament river flooding when it occurs, more so if a sea-surge takes place at the same time.

I am not even sure Sandals can insure against such a risk seeing it is beyond being a risk and is an actual reoccurring event waiting for when next to happen.

The Buccament flooding is classified in law as a 100-year event. Which does not mean it will only happen every 100 years. It means that it is an event that will occur once in every 100 big cloud bursts or storms. If you had a hundred of those in a day, there are probabilities that such flooding will occur. If it happens in a week, then once a week, if it occurs in a year once a year etc. A 100-year flood is a flood event that has a 1 in 100 chance (1% probability) of being equalled or exceeded in any given year. A common misunderstanding is that a 100-year flood is likely to occur only once in 100 years. There is approximately a 63.4% chance of one or more 100-year floods occurring in any 100 years.

The 100-year flood is also referred to as the 1% flood since its annual exceedance probability is 1%. For coastal or lake flooding, the 100-year flood is generally expressed as a flood elevation or depth and may include wave effects. For river systems, the 100-year flood is usually shown as a flowrate. Based on the expected 100-year flood flow rate, the flood water level can be mapped as an area of inundation. Areas such as Buccament which adjoin the coast can also be flooded by combinations of the tide, storm surge, and waves. So, in the case of Buccament, there is not just the probability of the flood plain being inundated by water from the river and extreme runoff from the surrounding mountain arena. But also, from inundation by sea surge, if both happened simultaneously, the whole resort would be swept into the sea.

The current villas are built without foundations; they are built on concrete slabs. Such construction in a flood plain and sea surge area is bad engineering because, in such environments, slabs and villas can quite simply float away. The initial planning before construction called for the raising of the land by ten feet, pilings, and footings for the villa bases. But Harlequin decided to cut costs at the expense of safety and security and abandoned that engineering necessity. So basically, the structures are unsafe for habitation in the floodplain and sea surge area that Buccament is in.

So I hope that Sandals have appropriately been made aware of the problems at Buccament, if not they are put on notice by this letter/article, that now knowing about the risks they will be fully responsible for claims against them at some time in the future. It will not be classed as an act of God but an unpreventable tragedy which they were warned about.

I also at this time enquire if the Court orders in favour of certain people who brought some of the villas, giving them priority payment in full of costs and interest at the time of resale have been satisfied? I also enquire how the PM and the government can enter a contract of sale when the property is in the hands of a receiver/liquidator/administrator legally appointed by the court?

I am not sure precisely what kind of deal has been signed, I suspect it is an MOU.

The legality of sale seems to have been taken care of; this was published after I wrote this letter – [Did you mention compulsory purchase comrade, mmh?]

Sandals needs to be very aware that they for the sake of their investor and shareholder get proper surveying carried out, and an accurate report on the flood-plain aspect before they conclude any deal. It is most unfortunate that Harlequin never took those precautions, so they were unaware of the flood plain aspect until it flooded, and several employees were drowned in the raging torrent.

Sandals will have an international airport in the equation; Harlequin only had the promise which never happened in their time. Harlequin would have had a chance of success if they had the airport operational.

To finish, I would like to enquire if PM Dr Ralph E Gonsalves wife, Mrs Eloise Gonsalves will have a contract to carry out the interior design and furnishings of all, or some of the Villas when they are finished as she had with Harlequin.

Also, just one more request, I must ask if the comrades’ cousin, Senator Julian Francis, will be acting as Mr Fixit for Sandals as he was for Harlequin. He invited people to go to him if they needed help with Harlequin; it is recorded in several news stories.

Oh! Something else, will the ex-Harlequin employees get the wages and severance they did not get from Harlequin? You have made no mention of this, please tell us their status for payment. Is there any provision for those workers that worked for months without pay, only to be dumped with no severance?

Here are a few useful articles on the matter, there are over a thousand if you check out your search engines.

Harlequin denied they built on a flood plain, but that denial is worthless because it is a fact that they did. Perhaps they did not knowingly build on a flood plain, because they were probably never told or warned, or their now-deceased lawyer never did any searches. But the fact is that they did build on a flood plain, and the resort remains on a flood plain, and always will.

Afra Raymond Speaks- The Show Tell Hotel

Tax transparency is the series of laws or rules to require businesses or people to disclose their income earned and taxes paid.

What re-ignited my interest in this was the recent Daily Mail article on the Florida lawsuit against Sandals Resorts International (SRI) by a former guest on allegations of tax fraud. The allegation is that the 12% accommodation tax charged to guests at Beaches in the Turks & Caicos Islands was not all remitted to the government, with a significant percentage of those monies kept by SRI (owners of Beaches).

SRI has denied those allegations and will be fighting the case strongly, but I wondered – just how did that guest get enough information to decide to file this lawsuit? Recently in the TCI there has been serious political fallout arising from certain secret tax and duty concessions to SRI now being published, which once again shows just how imperative it is to have transparency. Without those secret deals having been disclosed, how would that person know they were being charged in the incorrect and dishonest way as alleged in their lawsuit?

Full text @Afra Raymond website.

Butch Stewart’s Sandals Features in the Fraud Section of the UK News

The following articles is reproduced in the public interest – David, Blogmaster

Sandals Resorts ‘operated decades-long tax fraud by charging guests 12% rates but pocketed the cash in secret deal with local Caribbean governments,’ class action lawsuit claims

  • Sandals Resorts has been hit with a class action lawsuit in Florida on Tuesday over an alleged tax fraud scheme run at its Caribbean resorts 
  • The company is accused of charging guests 12% tax rates but instead of handing over the money, the funds are ‘secretly retained by Sandals for its own profit’ 
  • Plantiff Vitali Feldman stayed at a Sandals Resorts in 2017, 2018 and 2019, along with his wife and two children and claims he fell victim to the alleged scheme
  • His lawyers claim customers were ‘deceived into paying such tax that was, in fact, being secretly retained by Defendants for their own use, benefit and profit’
  • Lawyers claim Sandals Resorts settled with the government of Antigua and Barbuda over unpaid sales tax totaling $37.5M, and paid only 37 cents  
  • The class action lawsuit is seeking at least $5 million
  • Sandals Resorts denied the allegations saying: ‘Our valued guests have never been unlawfully charged for taxes and allegations to the contrary are false’ 

Sandals Resorts has been hit with a massive lawsuit over claims the company worked in concert with local Caribbean governments in a decades-long tax fraud scheme, according to court papers obtained by DailyMail.com.

Sandals is accused of charging guests 12 percent tax rates but instead of handing over the money to local governments, the funds are ‘secretly retained by Sandals for its own profit’, according to the suit filed in Florida federal court on Tuesday.

New Jersey resident Vitali Feldman is the only named plaintiff in the suit and hired Miami-based law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman to represent him, along with any others who join the suit, which is seeking at least $5 million.

Sandals Resorts has been hit with a massive lawsuit over claims the company worked in concert with local Caribbean governments in a decades-long tax fraud scheme, DailyMail.com has learned

Sandals Resorts has been hit with a massive lawsuit over claims the company worked in concert with local Caribbean governments in a decades-long tax fraud scheme, DailyMail.com has learned

Feldman vacationed at a Sandals Resorts in 2017, 2018 and 2019, along with his wife and two young children.

He claims he fell victim to the alleged scheme when he was charged with the ‘all inclusive’ tax rate of 12 percent of the total cost of his stay.

Lawyers claim current and past customers were ‘deceived into paying such tax [in whole or in part] that was, in fact, being secretly retained by Defendants for their own use, benefit and profit’.

The suit states: ‘At all times material, it is represented to the public and Plaintiffs and others similarly situated that the ‘all inclusive’ packages include ”all taxes.”

‘The way the charges were presented to the guests was described in a deceptive way by labeling the charge(s) as a local government tax, when in fact Sandals was charging more money for the room.’

In a statement to DailyMail.com, a spokesperson for Sandals Resorts said: ‘Our customers are our top priority and under no circumstances would we exploit their faith in us.

‘Our valued guests have never been unlawfully charged for taxes and allegations to the contrary are downright false. Not only do we conduct our business with pricing transparency, we meet all of our tax obligations in each of the islands where we call home.

‘We take great pride in being the gold standard in the islands where we operate and have spent close to four decades providing guests with the most comprehensive vacation experience bar none.

‘We will of course vigorously defend against these baseless allegations.’

Sandals is accused of charging guests 12 percent tax rates but instead of handing over the money to local governments, the funds are 'secretly retained by Sandals for its own profit', according to the lawsuit filed in Florida federal court on Tuesday


Sandals is accused of charging guests 12 percent tax rates but instead of handing over the money to local governments, the funds are ‘secretly retained by Sandals for its own profit’, according to the lawsuit filed in Florida federal court on Tuesday

In court papers, lawyers claim all guests of Beaches Turks & Caicos, which falls under Sandals Resorts’ ownership, paid a 12 percent accommodation tax.

But ‘unknown to Plaintiffs and others similarly situated is the existence of an agreement between Sandals and the Turks and Caicos government permitting Sandals to retain a significant percentage of such taxes for its own use and benefit instead of remitting the monies to the government,’ the suit claims.

It adds: ‘These tax charges are used to generate extra profit at the expense of Plaintiff and others similarly situated, who were deceived into believing the fees are legitimate charges directly related to Sandals’ owed and paid taxes to the government.

‘In fact, the fees are nothing but profit-enhancers disguised as taxes that have a legitimate purpose, constituting a violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.’

Sandals Resorts is accused of running the same alleged scheme at its resorts in Grande Antigua, Barbados and Royal Barbados where guests are charged a 12.5 percent sales tax.

Again, Sandals Resorts allegedly ‘retained a significant percentage of such taxes for its own use and benefit instead of remitting the monies to the government’, due to ‘an agreement between Sandals and the Antigua and Barbuda government’.

The suit adds: ‘By bundling the fees, taxes, and other charges into the all-inclusive package, Sandals is able to conceal the fact that consumers were being vastly overcharged for the all-inclusive resort package due to the agreement to retain a large portion of the taxes.

‘In short, Sandals has, through fraud, deception, omission and/or concealment, engaged in a pattern of unlawful profiteering, deceit, and self-dealing with regard to charging a local government tax and retaining a large percentage of such.’

The lawyers claim in court papers that Sandals Resorts settled with the government of Antigua and Barbuda over unpaid sales tax totaling $37.5 million up to late December of 2016.

Sandals Resorts agreed to pay $1 East Caribbean Dollar, which is around 37 cents, which the government accepted.

‘Because the government stipulated to not collect the $37.5 million and Sandals retained such monies, Plaintiffs and other similarly situated are entitled to these monies as it relates to the taxes they were fraudulently and deceptively charged,’ according to court papers.

The class action lawsuit is seeking at least $5 million, exclusive of interest and costs.


Questions Need Answering at Sandals in Heywoods

Submitted by Tee White

As someone who grew up bathing on Heywoods beach, I am extremely concerned at the way Sandals construction of their Beaches hotel there is going. Putting aside for now, the current disagreement between the government and Butch Stewart over the indemnities Sandals want signed into law, there are other aspects of what is going on there that need urgent attention.

First, representatives of Sandals have repeatedly stated at public meetings in Speightstown that the construction of the hotel would not result in worse access to the beach for local people than we enjoyed previously. However, Sandals has carried out beach reconstruction which pushes the shoreline out into what used to be the sea. As a result, the traditional path onto the beach from the Speightstown end, which has been used for as long as I can remember, will now be well above the high water mark and so fall squarely within Sandals’ private property. There is a need for an ironclad undertaking from Sandals that this traditional path will remain open for use by local people as an access route onto the beach.

Secondly, Sandals has given repeated assurances that the construction of the new hotel would be done in such a way as to avoid damaging the local environment. However, they have been using crushed limestone as part of the reconstruction of the beach. This material which is produced and supplied by C.O.Williams Construction Company Ltd is entirely different in appearance and texture to natural beach sand. I understand that the intention is to deposit this material in the sea and use dredged beach sand at the later stages of the project to finish off the beach. However, the use of this material is having a negative impact on the environment. When it is placed in the sea, it is producing a white film that covers the water and nearby reefs and also causing increased cloudiness in the water, thereby affecting the sea life. In addition, while it is stacked on the beach it is interfering with the nesting of the turtles, particularly for the hatchlings which have difficulty digging their way out of it.

Sandals promised that the Heywoods beach would be reopened for public use by December 2018. It’s now April 2019 and the beach is still not opened. It’s essential that the people of Barbados do not allow Sandals to break any more of their promises with regard to the construction of this hotel.

Should Sandals Follow Lok Jack’s Footsteps?

Submitted by Fatimah Mohammed

The billionaire businessman, Arthur Lok Jack, spoke on Wednesday night at the Sandals forum at UWI on the reasons why the proposed hotel resort pulled out of Tobago.

Lok Jack was visibly and audibly angry. He said his long-time friend, Sandals Chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart disclosed to him the real reason for the withdrawal. Lok Jack said Stewart was really upset with the criticisms of Sandals by the UNC Opposition.

Both men believed that the UNC denied its supporters in Trinidad the opportunity to grow and supply agricultural products to Sandals in Tobago. Lok Jack said: “It’s the same people in the United National Congress (UNC), it’s the Indian constituencies of this country who are the farmers” who would respond to the “tremendous amount of demand” by Sandals.

Is this forecast really based on the facts of history?

Lok Jack is the CEO of the Associated Brands Group of Companies (ABIL) which is the leading manufacturer and distributor in the Caribbean of snack foods, chocolate confectionery, biscuits and breakfast cereals. Its brands include Charles Chocolates, Devon Biscuits, Sunshine Snacks, and Universal Foods Limited.

Has ABIL ever supported farmers in Trinidad and Tobago to cultivate and supply sugar for its snacks, corn for its flakes, coconut for its cream filling and shortcake, and rice for its rice crisps?

Has ABDIL ever supported farmers in the UNC “Indian constituencies”, or any farmer in Trinidad to raise cows to supply milk for its milk chocolates and nacho cheese?

If Lok Jack is so concerned about Indian farmers, why did he not step in to save the sugar- growing Caroni Ltd in 2003? His ABIL has been in existence since 1974.

Lok Jack is clearly playing politics.

If he is serious, he should set his own footprints for Sandals to follow.

The Sandals Re-MoU

Afra Raymond continues his relentless prosecution of the Sandals MoU matter in Trinidad – Blogmaster

Screenshot 2019-01-01 at 16.37.01.pngMany years ago, in an earlier life, I was taught about the perils of the short-lived ‘remou’ and that word snapped back into my mind when considering the current position with this Sandals MoU, in which all points are supposedly open for discussion. That stated position of no signed contracts will be the subject of this article. So many eminent people and responsible institutions were involved in this matter, that it is unfathomable how our Government could have signed that Sandals MoU on 10th October 2017.

My campaign to have that MoU made public got this far due its clear focus on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) and the ‘Underlying Commercial Arrangements’, which are never discussed in public. The decisive element in the complicated process of creating these large-scale projects is intentionally kept from public view, by agreement. Our national assets are traded and degraded for decades, after the sheer outrage of colonialism, with the new leaders relying on the cultivated economic and financial illiteracy of our citizens.

Read full articleProperty Matters – The Sandals Re-MoU


GOVERNMENT has finally provided chartered surveyor Afra Raymond with a copy of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sandals Resort which provides crucial information on the deal for construction of a 500-700-room hotel in Tobago.

Senior Counsel Deborah Peake confirmed this to Justice Frank Seepersad this morning in the San Fernando High Court.

In October, the judge ruled for Raymond in a judicial review lawsuit he filed because of the State’s failure to provide him with details about the deal.

Raymond contended that the proposed hotel resort, to be constructed on prime state lands in Tobago, the cost of which the State will bear after which Sandals will operate, will impact on the use of water, electricity, solid waste and further infrastructural development of the airport in Tobago.

Gov’t hands over MoU with Sandals to Afra Raymond/Newsday

Read a copy of the MOU posted in the BU Library:

Click to access sandals-mou-scan.pdf


Property Matters – Sandals Splinters



Afra Raymond, Citizen Advocate


In writing on the extent to which Public Money is stolen or wasted and the need for proper standards, I offered this equation for the reality check –

Minus    Transparency
Minus    Accountability

My previous articles have been focused on the gaps in the available information on the current proposals for the large-scale Tobago Sandals/Beaches resort,. This article will examine those proposals from the other perspective, by listing the facts which we do know.

Read full articleProperty Matters – Sandals Splinters

Sandals MoU? Part III

Citizen Advocate Afra Raymond continues his piercing examination of the Sandals transaction – David, blogmaster

The previous article delved into the published information on the three existing State-owned hotels and juxtaposed that with the proposals for a Tobago Sandals. Apart from the unsatisfactory position with the State’s existing hotel investments and the reluctance to give details, I also updated readers on the missing MoU for the Tobago Sandals project.

My dismal readings were based on the very limited publicly-available information, nothing else. I did not refer to any rumours or ‘inside information‘, my work is all based on the published record. The PM and his colleagues surely have ready access to a better quality and quantity of information than the public. That being the case, it begs the question as to what is really happening here.

If indeed, the Sandals project has significant upsides and benefits, those ought to have been estimated and shared by now. If the existing State-owned hotels are doing well, why aren’t the management agreements or accounts published? If those hotels are doing poorly, why are we persisting with that same model?

We need a proper examination of those existing hotels so that the Sandals negotiations can take place on the basis of sound information. That is all I am saying.

“In fact, she told a gathering of industry stakeholders…that what it 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…which is nonsense, and then those who don’t even get anywhere near the Ministry of Tourism…and as a result therefore they are precluded from being a beneficiary of any of those concessions,”…

Read full article – HERE

Sandals MoU? Part II


Sandals/Beaches Tobago Hotel Pads Bubble Diagram – Source: Afraraymond.com

The following entry by Citizen Advocate Afra Raymond should be of interest to civic minded Barbadians and in particular the BU family. He continues to prosecute the pillar issues which underpin the arrangement supporting the introduction of Butch Stewart’s Sandals to Trinidad and Tobago. In Barbados the models being used to promote the Hyatt and Hilton projects are not dissimilar.

What are the pillar issues?

  • Governance
    • Integrity
    • Transparency

The price citizens must pay to ensure our democracy is eternal vigilance.

  • David, blogmaster

The previous article updated readers on my attempts to obtain the Sandals Memorandum of Understanding for the proposed high-end, large-scale resort development in Tobago. That proposed development is said to be a significant part of our country’s diversification efforts so it requires our sober attention if we are to understand what is at stake.

The model for this project is one in which the State either pays for or guarantees the financing of the new resort. The State would pay for the cost of design, financing, construction, fitting and furnishing of the new resort, all to the standards set by Sandals. The completed resort will then be operated by Sandals under a management agreement. T&T is unique in the Caribbean in that our largest hotels were funded by Public Money with the operators working via Management Agreements.

Read full text of Afra’s prosecution of the Sandals matter in TrinidadSandals MoU II

Sandals and Secret Deals with Caribbean Governments Continue …

Father and son Butch and Adam Stewart

The same concerns many Barbadians have voiced at the lack of transparency by government with the Sandals Butch Stewart deal is also playing out in Trinidad & Tobago. Unlike Barbados, Freedom of Information legislation is on the statute books of Trinidad and therefore affords citizens like Afra Raymond the avenue to request information deem to be in the public interest.

It is no secret Sandals Butch Stewart deals have been ‘questioned’ across the Caribbean  and of recent Prime Minister Gaston Browne has expressed public outrage at the dictatorial attitude being expressed by Sandals Stewart in Antigua towards his government. We are not in a position to establish if Sandals and Butch Stewart have been involved in nefarious behaviour when dealing with governments across the Caribbean. What we know is that citizens have a right to demand transparency in government especially as it relates to how said decisions effect the public purse.

We recommend the reading below which details the journey by citizen advocate Afra Raymond in T&T as it relates to exposing the MOU with Sandals.

-David,  BU blogmaster


The Tobago Sandals mega-project has returned to the headlines with recent interviews of Sandals Resorts’ CEO, Adam Stewart, in Barbados and Stuart Young, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Stewart’s statements were widely reported in the local press (see Addendum 1 below) with an emphasis on the lack of secrecy in the entire arrangement and the fact that discussions were still at a preliminary stage. Minister Young’s CNC3 interview on Wednesday 28 February 2018 (below) was also notable for his insistence that there was no secrecy or any reluctance to engage with the public on this mega-project.

Butch Stewart and Parasites

Submitted by Crusoe

Sandals Butch Stewart

The Barbados Today digital newspaper has reported that Butch Stewart stated that Barbadians are too entitled.

This is a remarkable statement from a hotel magnate whose company has received forty years of tax free concessions from Government, when small hoteliers get nothing.

Entitled much?

For a government to maintain services, it must seek revenues. By allowing one company to be exempt of all taxation, much revenue for services is lost.

Is the problem lost revenue, or excess services? Many countries, especially in Europe, provide excellent social services and are able to function well.

The problem is not the social services.

As for Stewart’s own operations, at a time when Barbados is in urgent need of foreign exchange injections, can we ask whether room revenue from international sources, all of it, is banked in Barbados? Many companies, through their corporate structure and international banking arrangements, have revenues banked in say, Panama, sending only funds for operating expenses to the location of the operations.

Therefore, significant foreign exchange flow loss results, for the source of operations.

One wonders what is the process for Stewart’s operations? Are your revenues all banked in Barbados, Mr. Stewart?

This revenue business is all the more critical, when international jurisdictions such as Canada are penalizing companies for sending operations cashflows out of foreign jurisdictions.

Are we adhering to international standards, by allowing those companies that profit from Barbados’s economy, to do so?

The Adrian Loveridge Column – Implications for Barbados If Sandals is Sold

Adrian Loveridge

Originally carried as an ‘Exclusive’ by Reuters on Wednesday 10th May 2017 under the banner headline Caribbean resort operator Sandals explores sale it took barely hours to spread throughout the travel trade and public media.

According to Reuters Sandals Resorts International have hired investment bank, Deutsche Bank AG (DBKgn.DE) ‘to explore several options, including a sale of a majority stake in the company, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential’. Adding, ‘the valuation of the company could not be learned, but the sources said it could be worth well over US$1 billion, including debt’. As Sandals Resort International and its various associated and subsidiary companies are currently privately held, there is of course no legal obligation to publish actual trading accounts or anything to indicate valuation.

My first question when  heard the news was: in the case of Sandals Barbados, what would happen to the unilateral and unique 40 year tax concessions that this organisation obtained if a sale took place? Would any new owner inherit them, in which case then it would further push down the hill any attempt by the entire remaining tourism industry on Barbados to play catch-up?

Sadly, the vast majority of Barbadian taxpayers has absolutely no idea of the full extent of the concessions and exactly who they were granted to because two holding company’s CPH Property Holdings (CAIPO company registration number 37515) and Grand Cass Management (CAIPO company registration number 37513) were mentioned in the original Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

There is also widespread speculation about who is the beneficial owner of the land that the two local Sandals are constructed on and again the taxpayer is completely in the dark over this element as well. If there is any increased value of the land would it be passed on to a new owner largely based on the benefits gleaned from the extraordinary concessions, would this be fair and reasonable?

Was there any provision in the MOU signed by Government to allow for this scenario and if not, why?

The Jamaica Gleaner reported a day later in a one-paragraph statement neither confirmed or denied whether Sandals founder, chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart is exploring a potential sale of the ‘hotel management company’.

‘CEO of Sandals Resorts, Adam Stewart, son of the founder, did not respond to messages regarding the (Reuters) report, while spokesman Stephen Hector requested time to respond’.

The next question we should all be asking, could any possible sale delay or nullify plans to build the proposed Beaches Resort on the former Almond, Heywoods resort?

Has Sandals or the actual beneficial owner already paid Government for this property? What provision has been put in place just in case the construction and resort opening does not take place because this has been heralded by the current administration as an integral part of economic recovery and job creation?

And the reason I raise this question again, if Government or another party has received full payment, why would a separate private company be leasing and operating part of the hotel?

One thing for sure, the travel industry does not thrive on uncertainty and unknowns and almost always it has a severe and immediate effect on forward bookings.

Clarity is needed.

Barbados Beaches Resort Project Stalled

Submitted by Anthony Davis
Sandals Butch Stewart

Sandals Butch Stewart

The start of construction on the highly anticipated Beaches Resort in Barbados has been set back. “Speaking to the media following a tour of the Sandals Barbados property this afternoon, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International – the operator of the Beaches and Sandals brands – said work on the property in Heywoods, St. Peter, had been pushed back due to the complexity of the project.” Source: Barbados Today

When the Minister of Tourism, and the Minister of Finance decided to give Sandals Resorts International the go-ahead for taking over the Almond Beach Village Resort, the excuse was that the projected time for Manager of the Crane Resorts and Residences’ Paul Doyle’s finishing of the hotel he proposed would take longer than Sandals. There was just a couple of months difference between the two, but this Government was adamant that Sandals had the best proposal and gave it to them. All of a sudden a third party became involved.

Continue reading

Sandals, Almond, Butch, Bernie…Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier 

I have been following the various views expressed, vested or otherwise, over the last few weeks comparing the merits of proceeding with the stated non-binding Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Sandals group of companies and Government or allowing the current operator of Almond Beach Village to take over the entire property. What appears dismally lacking is any comprehensive analysis detailing the potential financial benefits of both options for the short, medium and long term. With Sandals now closed, at least until December, the majority of fiscal activity will be generated by construction, where virtually all materials used are imported and require foreign exchange to pay for them.

Even with just 160 rooms out of a total of 396 currently open, Almond St. Peter will continue to earn somewhere around BDS$2 million per month at 85 per cent occupancy. With all rooms fully functional that amount would increase to approximately BDS$6 million. Meaningful employment would not only be retained but substantially grown year round increasing NIS and tax contributions to Government. And on the subject of tax, the current Almond ‘managers’ still pay VAT and from what I understand largely source the majority of consumables locally.

Then there is the critical airlift support question. Nearly 16,000 seats this year have been lost with the closure of Sandals. Almond is helping to fill around 300 of these per week, based on current room availability which could climb to nearly 800 weekly, if the entire hotel was open, based on an average 7 night stay. When, as planned, Almond then closes again on April 2015, it will be years before a new Beaches adds any additional or replacement airlift. Whether during the interim this leads to even more reduction in air services, either in frequency or curtailment of routes, only time will tell.

Meanwhile another 240 rooms remain empty, abandoned and unproductive at the derelict Sam Lords Castle, as the CLICO debacle slumbers on and on. The current administration has been less than candid over what amounts of NIS, land and other taxes are still outstanding by the owners of this property. As a preferred creditor in this case, it is also puzzling that over $100 million can be found to buy Almond, but not a lesser amount to acquire and restore, what is in many respects, an equally attractive location with tremendous land potential for expansion.

The site lends itself to building a new conference centre, providing over two hundred truly 4 star suites and the possibility of enticing a world brand to manage it. There is probably no better location than Long Bay to attract substantial numbers of incentive or motivational groups either.  Despite the open hostility frequently directed at hoteliers on Barbados the general public perhaps tend to forget that Government is in fact already the largest single owner of accommodation room stock on the island.

Very few of us in the private sector consider this desirable or even sustainable, but until our political directorate levels the playing field, as has been repeatedly promised for months, this is very unlikely to change in the near future.

Butch Stewart: Public Relations and Truth

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

While it was very tempting to write about any subject this week other than the Butcherisation I received at the recent Barbados Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon, that would have been the easy way out and certainly not in my character. First for the record, I had no intention of offending anyone. In fact I made it abundantly clear in my opening remarks that many of us greatly admire Mr. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart and the hotel empire he has spearheaded. I am not so remotely naive to believe that any one person can achieve this alone and a great part of the success is attracting the right people around you. This equally applies whether it is a small or large business. Perhaps what surprises me more than anything is that a person who has received everything he has asked for within weeks and possibly more than we are aware of is so unwilling to respond to legitimate concerns. Especially, while so many who actually live on Barbados have toiled to build the destination’s tourism industry over several decades while being consistently denied similar extraordinary concessions.

Equally baffling were the number of persons present at the event who over the last months had, albeit in the shadows of anonymity, literally moaned about their inability to solicit business from Sandals Barbados but were now cheering their new found ‘super hero’. There is the temptation to name and shame these persons but they know who they are.

Are we really such a Nation of hypocrites?

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Sandals Almond Chronology III

Submitted by Due Diligence

After reviewing media reports over the past couple of years I have updated my chronology of the Sandals/Almond saga, with particular attention  to the Heywoods property.

To summarize:

  • In April 2012, Almond Beach Village closed its doors to guests sending 500 workers on the breadline.
  • November 2012 Neal & Massy Group CEO, Gervase Warner, revealed three private sector parties, Jamaica’s Sandals Resorts headed by Gordon Butch Stewart, a group led by local businessman Bjorn Bjerkhamn, and Paul Doyle’s Crane Resorts had all submitted bids to buy the St. Peter hotel.  The original trio had been reduced to one “preferred buyer” and the necessary paper work to complete the transaction was underway. Sources said Paul Doyle of The Crane was the front-runner.

Sandals Documents

Sandals Butch Stewart

Sandals Butch Stewart

Office of the Contractor General Writes to Prime Minister to Recommend Halt of Sale of Sandals Whitehouse Hotel to Gorstew Limited
Kingston; January 19, 2011; The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has today written to Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, and to the Permanent Secretary and Accounting Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ms.Onika Miller, to formally recommend that urgent steps be taken to halt the Administration’s proposed sale of the Sandals Whitehouse Hotel to the Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart owned and controlled Gorstew Limited. The OCG has also recommended that the Government should, thereafter, re-start the divestment process, and subject same to the transparent and structured scrutiny and supervision of the OCG…read more.

OCG Questions Legitimacy of and Motive for Gorstew’s Sandals Whitehouse Court Challenge
Kingston; September 10, 2012 – The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has taken note of a story which appeared in yesterday’s Jamaica Sunday Observer newspaper which is entitled: ‘OCG has no power to probe Sandals Whitehouse’. The story asserts that Gorstew Limited, which is owned by the Hon. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, OJ, has filed an Application in the Supreme Court to challenge the powers of the Contractor General to investigate the circumstances which led to the Government’s sale of the Sandals Whitehouse Hotel to Gorstew Limited in early 2011…read more.

Of Sandals and Scandals

Submitted by Douglas
Sandals Barbados

Sandals Barbados

Finally, after many years of trying, Barbados’ tourism product will have the Sandals brand attached to it. Not just one but two properties; Sandals Couples at Casuarina and soon to come, Sandals Beaches at Heywoods. This year at the World Travel Awards’ 20th Caribbean and North American Gala, Sandals Resorts International won for the 20th consecutive time the title of the “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand.” Imagine the benefits that the Barbados tourism product will derive from having the Sandals brand marketing and selling Barbados.

Internationally, the news of the opening of Sandals Couples at Casuarina and the planned opening of Sandals Beaches have not gone unnoticed but it is creating a positive stir in the travel markets. In fact, it is projected that the country will benefit from increased airlift from the UK with the opening of Sandals in Barbados. A check of the website for Sandals resorts Barbados would reveal that since accepting its first guest on November 6, 2013 the 280 room hotel is fully booked up to March 2014. This indeed is positive news for Barbados. There are also plans to quickly increase the number of restaurants at the hotel from 3 to possibly 9. Do I hear, “employment opportunities”?

This is certainly a sign that something positive is happening in Barbados. Our tourism industry has just been given a tremendous jolt that would no doubt result in growth in the sector.

Ministerial Statement (Minister of Tourism)

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Minister Richard Sealy is a Pedigree JA

Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy

Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy

To bloggers who listened to the radio clip (compliments of VOB) today which featured Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy defending governments washpan of concessions to CPH Property Holdings (Barbados) Limited and Grande Cass Management (Barbados) Limited together known as SANDALS – see Government’s Concessions to SANDALS Barbados, they would have been offended. He made reference to the front page of the Nation newspaper which carried a a story highly critical of the concessions given to Butch Stewart’s companies. And here is what some bloggers may deem to be offensive, he stated he expected what the Nation published to be posted on the blogs or discussed under a tamarind tree.

Minister Sealy is free to have his opinion afterall we boast of living in a democracy. However, when he feels bold enough to disparage what we do on the blogs, he invites a response from BU albeit a reluctant one.

Minister Sealy should bear in mind that BU is used prolifically by his colleagues to disseminate information which the traditional media is not geared to facilitate. Have we not had the pleasure of Minister Donville Inniss venturing into this forum to interact with BU bloggers when he sought to defend his choice of Kingsland as a possible location for a new hospital? Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner has posted to BU on several occasions. BU will not mention all the DLP politicos who post to BU using monikers. What does he make of his colleagues who post and read BU? Perhaps one day BU will be persuaded to post some of the comments posted to BU by the late Prime Minister David Thompson.

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Sandals Almond Chronology II

Submitted by Due Diligence
Lee Issa, Chairman of the House of Issa

Lee Issa, Chairman of the House of Issa

In July 2012 ARI/N&M sold Almond Beach Club, to Fairweather Holding Co., which operates Elite Island Resorts  for $33 million, the proceeds of which was used to pay down bank debt that had been incurred to keep ARI afloat.

It is not clear who owns/controls Fairweather/Elite, January 4, 2013, the Jamaica Gleaner reports that Couples is finalizing negotiations to purchase Casuarina.

“Couples Resorts is finalising a deal to acquire a hotel in Barbados, making it the first Jamaican resort group to venture into that market. It’s also Couples’ first venture outside of its home market. Couples chief executive officer, Glenn Lawrence, confirmed plans on Wednesday to purchase the 280-room Almond Casuarina Beach (ACB) Club in the eastern Caribbean island. “We are involved in firm negotiations,” said Lawrence, adding that the deal was expected to conclude on or before January 31, at which time more details would be forthcoming.”

For undisclosed reasons, Couples did not purchase the property; but January 29, 2013, announced it had agreed to manage Casuarina (it turns out) under a lease.

In an article in the Trinidad Guardian about N&M dated May 22, 2013, included The group continues to unwind its hotel properties. The Jamaican-based Couples Hotels have leased Almond Casuarina Beach; the lessee has an option either to acquire the hotel by September 30, 2013, or enter into a long-term lease arrangement.

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Update On Almond Beach Village Anyone?

Hotel mongul Butch Stewart has his eyes on Almond Beach Club

One of the unforgiving characteristics of this Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government has been its reluctance to communicate to a public which yearns for information. Surely if there is one group in society who has a right to know how its government is treating with issues, it is the taxpayers. Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart’s taciturn nature has indelibly labelled the legacy of his Cabinet. On the eve of a general election it is unlikely public perception will change.

Of the myriad of issues which this government continues to wrestle -thrown up by the global economy – ordinary citizens have the capacity to understand that this is a difficult time to govern. Surely one way the Stuart government can allay the anxiety of citizens is to feed them relevant information. A reasonable assumption must be that disseminating information to the population is a prerequisite of a democracy.

One of the many issues which is of concern is the status of the sale of Almond Beach Village. Since April this year it was reported that several buyers were short listed by the owners Neal & Massy and a decision was promised in weeks to inform the winning purchaser. It is several months later and we are still waiting. Given the significant contribution to GDP which the Almond Beach property generated, the Opposition and others had suggested to government at the time that it was a company which should have been labelled too big to fail. The public was advised by Minister Richard Sealy the government would play its part to pave the way for a smooth sale of Almond Beach Village. It appears that Sealy has been emulating Stuart because he has been very silent of late.

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