The Beaches Resort that Sandals Resorts International will operate at the former Buccament Bay Resort property in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will employ 700 Vincentians and purchase 700,000 pounds of produce locally.
Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves made the disclosure on Wednesday at a ceremony at Buccament Bay, where the government of SVG and Sandals signed a contract for acquisition of the property.
Gonsalves said the agreement is that Sandals will construct a 250- to 350-room, family all-inclusive resort called Beaches on the premises.
This compares to 124 functioning, operational rooms at Buccament Bay at its peak.
“And that, in and of itself, is a remarkable opportunity for growth and development here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said in an address at the event.
He said that Sandals also commits to spending a minimum of US$100 million for the rehabilitation and construction of the beaches resort in St. Vincent.
“It says that Sandals will provide employment for approximately 700 St. Vincent and the Grenadines nationals in full compliance with the labour laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including but not limited to compliance with working conditions and wages,” Gonsalves said.
He said that Sandals made it clear that they want to deal with local businesses and suppliers.
“They want to deal with local hardware stores. They want to deal with local suppliers of food and beverage; they want to deal with local tradespersons and contractors. And in particular, they want to deal with local farmers,” he said.
The contract also says that Sandals will procure locally produced agricultural goods and seafood from Vincentians farmers and fisher folk subject to the availability and quality.
“And we, repeatedly in this document, commit the Sandals corporation to not import all their food from Miami or elsewhere, but to buy their food and their fish from Vincentian farmers and Vincentian fisherfolk.
“And I told them that when they came today, and the government told them when they came today, don’t come with airy-fairy numbers come with specifics tell us so we can prepare for your arrival.”
Gonsalves said that the Sandals property at Buccament will require 700,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables every year.
Further, annually, the resort would need 82,000 pounds of pineapples; 48,000 pounds of bananas; 37,000 pounds of lettuce 555,000 eggs; 8,000 pounds of lobster; 90,000 pounds of fish; 880,000 pounds of rice; 90,000 pounds of flour; and 70,000 pounds of pork. It would need 1,400 bottles of beer a day.
“I want the farmers and the fisher folk to understand that a massive market for your produce is now sitting in your midst. “You don’t have to call a trader or trafficker to take some boxes down to Trinidad or across the Barbados or up to the BVI.
“There is a market right here that wants to buy 700,000 pounds a year of fruit and vegetable and fish, from the farmers and fisherfolk of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. That in itself is transformative,” Gonsalves said.
He said that while the contract says that the resort would employ approximately 700 Vincentians, a closed-door presentation given on Wednesday said that in the construction of this facility, Sandals will employ over 800 locals.
“And once it is complete, it will employ over 900 locals. That’s Vincentians. That’s not talking about the people that they import, to provide expertise and the like — 900 Vincentians employed here; 800 Vincentians employed in the construction.
Sandals is expected to send US$8 million in VAT to the national coffers annually, “without saying anything about other contracts that have been signed,” Gonsalves said.
He said there are many agreements with major hotels that exempt them from VAT all around the Caribbean, but SVG will get US$8 million in VAT.
“Similarly, there are a lot of agreements that exempt them from excise tax, but, over time, US$500,000 of excise tax will be generated by this facility.
“Between 25 and 34 million US dollars will be spun off in the tourism sector not generated directly here by employees. But they’re talking about the taxi drivers and the tour operators and all of the ancillary services that support a major tourism facility of this size.”
He said that the water and electricity companies will get US$3.5 million annually and departure tax will exceed US$500,000.
“The people at Sandals tell us that when this 350-room facility is built, don’t think of it as 360 guests because the Beaches brand is a family brand. It’s designed for mommy and daddy and the sons and daughters and grandparents to come and enjoy a family vacation together.
“… at peak capacity in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, this facility will host 1,400 guests when the facility is full. Imagine 1,400; yes, coming only here and imagine what that means for airlift. And imagine what that means for all the other hotels and ancillary businesses in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Gonsalves said that Sandals has indicated that once the hotel is complete and they start to advertise internationally, between television and social media, there would be over 10 billion references every year to SVG.
“And we would not have paid for one of those references. So this entity coming here, of course, it’s not a philanthropic organisation, it’s coming to make money, but it’s seen an opportunity and we, too, have seen an opportunity to employ over 700 Vincentians, an opportunity to guarantee a sustainable livelihood for the farmers and fisherfolk who will be providing over 700,000 pounds of produce, an opportunity to generate revenue through our taxes and through duties, to ensure that the government can do the things that our government is supposed to do.
“This facility, after being shuttered for three and a half years, will rise to beyond what we originally imagined the upper limits of its capacity to be. We’re very excited about the development today,” Gonsalves said.
Buccament Bay Resort closed in December 2016 when its electricity supply was disconnected. Workers had been protesting for months before this over the non-payment of wages.
Gonsalves told iWitness News that Sandals has communicated a targeted opening date to the government, but has asked that it not be disclosed “given the uncertainties related to COVID”.