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ANTIGUA | Tourism Minister optimistic about relationship between Sandals and Government

Charles Fernandez – Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez – Tourism Minister
LONDON, Nov. 8, CMC – Antigua and Barbuda’s newly appointed Minister of Tourism Charles Fernandez, says the ongoing verbal battle between Prime Minister Gaston Brown and the Sandals Group will be resolved shortly.

Fernandez, who is attending the World Travel Market (WTM) in London, says while both parties are looking out for their own interests , the relationship between Sandals and Antigua and Barbuda will be “bigger and better going forward”.

“I think the owner of Sandals is looking out for his shareholders and the Prime MInister is looking out for his people. So each of them are arguing …. But what I can tell you is that today we had a very good meeting with Sandals. The hotel will open in on December 17 – the bookings are right up and we look forward to welcoming them.”

The reopening of the 380 room Sandals Grande follows three months of renovation for essential maintenance work.

The Minister of Tourism’s comments follows statements made by the Browne during an interview on Jamaican radio in which he claimed that Sandals, which operates Sandals Grante Antigua, sought to avoid its tax obligations.

In response, the CEO of Sandals Resorts International Adam Stewart has rubbished claims made Browne,describing them as“vicious, sustained and defamatory attacks”.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Stewart during a radio interview in Jamaica. “But the Prime Minister has demonstrated time and again that he has no interest in the truth.”

Adding that Sandals Grande is the flagship hotel of Antigua and Barbuda, Stewart insisted that over the past 25 years it has and continues to be the most significant contributor to the economy and last year the company was the leading earner of foreign exchange and the highest private sector employer.

“Communities throughout Antigua and Barbuda benefit from the programmes of the Sandals Foundation, and only recently, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma,Chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart personally donated US$55,555 to relief efforts in Barbuda – ironically, even that was ungraciously lambasted by Prime Minister Browne as “insufficient,” the  Sandals CEO  noted.

Sandals says that in March 2000, under then Prime Minister Lester Bird, Sandals signed a Memorandum of Understanding which granted the company relief from the hotel tax and guest levy in exchange for constructing 100 new rooms.

Sandals has also suggested that with the challenges facing the Caribbean following the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria in September, the Prime Minister should spend his time in a more constructive manner, “in reaching out to the marketplace…working alongside, rather than against us, to help promote the region and build Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism product.”

In responding to Stewart,  Browne, during an interview on Observer Radio in Antigua on Tuesday said “the issue is dead”.

The Antigua Observer quotes the Prime Minister as saying that Sandals failed to prove any allegation of unfair treatment .

He also said that contrary to Stewart’s claim, Sandals did not have a legally binding agreement with the government of Antigua and Barbuda as it relates to what was to be collected under the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax.

  • Countries: Antigua_Barbuda