The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has told Sandal Resorts International, which has signed a contract to take over the former Buccament bay Resort, that all beaches in the country are public.

At the signing ceremony on Wednesday, Adam Stewart, deputy chairman of Sandals, announced that the new resort will be operated under Sandals’ “Beaches” brand.

SVG will join Jamaica and Turks and Caicos as the Caribbean nations with Beaches resorts.

Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, speaking to iWitness News on the signing ceremony was asked about beach access when Sandals resort begins operating.

The minister, who helped to bring Sandals to SVG, said:

“We made very clear to Sandals at the beginning of the process and the Prime Minister reiterated today in the tour that was given to Sandals that beaches in St. Vincent and the Grenadines — not ‘Beaches’, the brand but beaches — are accessible by the public and Sandals is fully understanding of the law here. So the access road going over to the beach would remain in effect.”

When Buccament Bay Resort first opened a decade ago, some issues of beach access arose in which security personnel at the resort would tell members of the public that while they can go to the beach, they could not use a bridge the resort had constructed to get there.

Before the resort was constructed, persons used to wade across the shallow river mouth to get to the preferred section of the beach.

However, as part of the construction of the resort, a river defence was built on the bank of the Buccament River that bordered the resort, making it practically impossible to access a part of the beach without using the bridge.

Buccament Resort closed in December 2016 when the state-owned electricity company cut its power supply over non-payment of the bill.

Before that, workers had been protesting for months over the non-payment of wages and salaries and the government has brought theft charges against Dave Ames, the chair of Harlequin, the company that owned the resort, over the non-payment of taxes and employee social security deductions.

Gonsalves welcomed Sandal’s involvement in the resort, which is currently the property of the government of SVG until Sandals, which has paid a deposit, makes the full payment.

Gonsalves said that the receivers, KPMG, “worked very hard, but there are a number of legal issues that they could not resolve on their own.

“It had gotten to a point where we were wondering if there would be a facility left to salvage given the time that had elapsed and the deterioration of the property,” he told iWitness News.

“So I’m glad that we were all able to work together. And I’m glad that all of the interest holders, I want to be — I want to express sincere gratitude to the good faith, and cooperative nature, of all the discussions that we had with KPMG, with the British owners and investors, with the local farmers, with Mr. Punnett and everybody who has been involved.

“I don’t think anybody got exactly what they wanted, but I think we reached amicable solutions with everybody and for an entity like Sandals in this time of global uncertainty when most of their resorts are still closed, when half of their workforce is still furloughed, to come and make this sort of commitment and make this sort of an investment is an incredible expression of confidence and faith in their own ability to rebound and in the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

The finance minister said that the resort “has not generated the jobs and revenue that we would have wanted it to over the last few years and now we see a light at the end of the tunnel.

“In fact, we’re where we are in the moment, we see the way forward. A lot of people thought that this day would never happen. Words like white elephants were being tossed around. But the government persevered. We found a good partner. And then we did the hard work that had to be done to make this facility viable again,” Gonsalves told iWitness News.

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8 Comments

  1. Whist this is certainly true, there needs to be a serious public awareness/ sensitization program to let the public know the importance of this project and not to go on the beach to harass the guest in the form of begging them or to lure them into any sort of lewd activities.

    Sandals/Beaches resort will ofcourse employ suitable local individuals to provide on property security, which is usually the norm in all of their other regional resorts.

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    1. Yes, that is a main concern. Consider all the theft! At Indian Bay so many people have had items stolen. At Salt Whistle Bay, etc… Beaches are the favorite spot for thieves. I have heard of guests getting things stolen on the resort at Canouan and do not even mention the yachties! I have seen times where the security works together with the thieves. As a back-up cameras may also have to be installed.
      The best solution is to have a different economic system where prices go down and jobs are more plentiful, but with socialism do not hold your breath on that one.

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  2. Everyone who is an owner of any part of this project is by law entitled to proper market value for their holding. Using the Compulsory Purchase Act to buy and sell at a lower price to a resort owner cannot be a legal action. Because the lower price is to give the state and people of SVG a pecuniary advantage from the property, i.e. jobs and tax revenues. Buying and selling must be a proper market value, not for a knockdown price because the resort owner will benefit SVG, or because the government like them and want them.

    I believe the resort buyer can be challenged if it is alleged they conspired with the government of SVG to get the resort at a price below market value.

    Has the resort been advertised recently on the regional and international market as being available without any encumbrances? I doubt it, so it means that Sandals are getting a deal without any competitive bid opportunity to any other party. It cannot stand up in law; it is quite simply very wrong and detrimental for everyone except Sandals and the government of SVG. The previous buyers the Kelly Glass consortioum were not offered the resort free of encumberances, they met a wall of protesting owners who they could not get beyond. This is a totally new deal, a different deal.

    It may even leave the receiver open to be included in a legal suit along with the ULP government, Sandals, perhaps even Ralph Gonsalves depending on his involvement and how he has handled the negotiations, along with the whole purchase and sale of the resort.

    I think Sandals can be sued under the circumstances.

    Who wants to sue the government of SVG they never pay even when courts order them to. They have a trail of unfufiled court orders.

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  3. Access to public beaches in SVG is a cherished benefit of citizenship. Yet, sometimes we must make sacrifices to foster the general welfare of the nation. I would suggest that the government educate the nation about the need for boundaries around the beach to be used by the guests at the resort.

    This is a very important step in our tourism development. Let’s not encumber it with problems. Let’s sacrifice now so that the nation may prosper in the future.

    Please use other beaches and help the resort to thrive.

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  4. There should be public forum held to engage the locals and to prepare them to what is acceptable and what is not..and take feedback from them..so they will be a positive influence.
    They need to see how it is in their best interest to help the tourist to have a positive experience thereby helping their community and their children future.

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  5. The beach pirates are already a nuisance at Villa beach. Selling food, snacks, drinks, souvenirs, and renting beach loungers to cruise ship visitors. Not to mention openly using and selling illicit drugs. They undercut the hotel’s prices, taking business away from them, yet they pay no VAT to the government. While the beach should be available for locals to enjoy, vendors should not be allowed to set up shop there.

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