Buccament Bay Resort “will definitely reopen in advance of the 2018 tourist season”, after a three-month process of rehabilitation to the existing facility.
Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves told Parliament on Monday that the bankruptcy trustee has indicated that the final management agreement is expected to be signed in the coming weeks.
In delivering the Budget Address, the finance minister said that the December 2016 closure of the resort has had “an undeniably negative impact on tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom, which were flat regionally on Brexit-related concerns”.
He said that in 2017, stay-over arrivals from the United Kingdom fell by 29 per cent, “due in no small part to the absence of the resort”.
“Further, over 200 talented and hard-working Vincentians were forced to find other jobs and endured great difficulty when the Resort was abruptly shuttered. Many of them are still owed wages from their work at the resort.”
The minister’s comments may have been euphemistically put given the tumultuous weeks leading up to closure of the resort, which came when the state-owned power company disconnected its electricity connection for non-payment of fees.
Dave Ames, a Britain-born naturalised Vincentian businessman who is the most well-known principal behind the resort, fled St. Vincent and the Grenadines as prosecutors moved in on him on tax evasion and theft charges, related to the non-payment into the state coffers of monies deducted from employees’ pay packets.
Ames has also been brought up on corruption charges in the United Kingdom to which he fled after leaving St. Vincent for St. Lucia via speedboat from the north-western port of Chateaubelair.
The finance minister said that initially, the government was given “unduly optimistic estimates” about when the resort would re-open.
“Those estimates were based entirely on our conversations with the principals involved in the legal proceedings to navigate the hotel through the bankruptcy and insolvency process.
“However, today, I can report that the investors and creditors of the resort, in communication with the bankruptcy trustee, have approved a plan for the management of the Resort and are currently fine-tuning the details of management proposals from credible and competent entities with excellent track records in hotel management,” Gonsalves said.
The minister also said that Blacksands Resort, a multi-million dollar development in Peters’ Hope that broke ground in January 2017, has obtained the necessary first-phase planning permissions and will commence construction this year.
The project consists of 40 villas, totalling 160 rooms, and a 200-room hotel.
Post-construction, the resort is anticipated to employ 300 Vincentians when it is fully operational, the minister said.
He further reiterated his government’s plans to build a state-owned, private-sector-managed hotel or hotels to add 200–350 rooms to the current stock.
“This model is common throughout the region, with the Barbados Hilton, the Trinidad and Tobago Marriott and the Saint Kitts and Nevis Marriott being just a few of the many state-owned facilities that are managed by major international brands.
“Thanks to a recent fruitful conversation with bilateral partners, I predict that the Government will be breaking ground on a new hotel, hopefully, in the fourth quarter of 2018, that will employ over 200 Vincentians,” the minister said.