The news about the possibility of the Sandals hotel group coming to Grenada should be more than welcome by anyone with an interest in the development of Grenada.
No one can deny that Sandals is a major brand in the industry. Its name can be mentioned along the lines of Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and other major brands like Mandarin Oriental and Sonesta.
THE NEW TODAY understands that Sandals can become a reality depending on the success of the behind the scene negotiations taking place between the owners of the recently closed LaSource hotel and the principals of this major hotel chain.
It appears that Sandals has already signed off on the package of incentives offered by the government of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas as regards its plans to build an additional 150 rooms at LaSource to upgrade the room stock from 100 to 250.
It is also our understanding that over the next 10 years, the Sandals Group gave a commitment to invest 100 million U.S dollars on the development of La Source.
For this to happen, the Taylors who are primarily the main players in the hotel and the owners of the additional lands around LaSource that are critical for the construction of the other 150 rooms would have to sign-off on the deal so that Sandals can proceed with its plans.
The presence of this major player in world tourism in the Grenada Market will definitely transform the local industry almost overnight in terms of marketing, as well as airline and passenger traffic at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA).
There will also be major spin-offs for the other hotels on the island including those that are currently struggling to stay afloat.
Knowledgeable industry officials have said that the kind of spending that Sandals are involved in elsewhere cannot be compared by any of the other existing hotel properties like Spice Island Beach Resort, Coyaba, Grenada Grand Beach Resorts.
If the Sandals deal becomes a reality then the Government of Prime Minister Thomas should move as quickly as possible and conclude the arrangement with the EXIM Bank of China for the US$100 million funds that are needed for the construction of another brand name hotel at Mt. Hartman.
Two brand name hotels on the island like Sandals and Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons will be enough to give a fillip to the Grenadian economy for years because other serious investors with money will take a second look at the country.
If only the former New National Party (NNP) government of ex-Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell had used the estimated $280 million dollars that it lost in guarantees to fly-by-night foreign investors and built a 5-star hotel to be run by a brand name in the industry, the country would be far better off today.
That apart, the Tillman Thomas government needs to take some serious and bold decisions on the way forward for the industry and the overall development of the country.
A problem that has to be tackled and rather quickly is the issue of the hundreds of acres of idle lands and thousands of idle hands in Grenada. A way has to be found to marry the two of them.
The time has come for our governments to ensure that most of the idle lands in the country are cultivated in order to produce as much local food as possible for a growing and expanding hotel sector, as well as to feed our people and to help cut down on the massive food import bill.
A rethink of the debushing programme has to be undertaken. Taxpayers’ money must no longer be used to throw away in a debushing programme every three or four months in the year.
It would be far better for the government to sit down with our farmers and work out a more sensible and pragmatic scheme in which the millions that are used in the debushing programme can be utilised in terms of a farm labour subsidy programme geared at boosting agricultural production.
A recent visitor to the island from neighbouring St. Vincent & The Grenadines was astonished at the amount of idle lands seen all over the place in Grenada.
Is it any wonder that the farming community in St. Vincent is doing so well in the trade between Trinidad and Tobago and the small islands in the Eastern Caribbean?
Too many of our people are non-productive and have become totally dependent on hand-outs from the Politicians who hope to keep them in that state of affair in order to secure their vote every five years in general elections as a means to remain in power.
It is time to break that vicious cycle in the interest of the overall and total development of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
There is talk around that the two leading hotels on the island spend approximately EC$3.5 million a year in purchasing products from local farmers. Can you imagine what local farmers can earn with the coming on stream of Sandals and a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons hotel brand?
Grenada needs to use the possibilities that are opening up in the hotel sector to come up with a realistic plan for the overall development of the economy.
The country can ill-afford given the gravity of the debt situation to continue along a path of development that is fashioned on the model of our government leaders confined to a life of always begging for money on the international level at sometimes high commercial interest rates and then utilizing most of the funds on projects that are not sustainable over the medium to long-term.
The late Prime Minister H.A Blaize once said that he was not interested in handouts like the so-called U.S -sponsored Marshall Plan that helped to rebuild Europe after the World War but assistance that can result in giving Grenada a hand-up.
As a country we need to cut out this nonsense of being perpetual beggars and to give more meaning to our independence and to use our initiative to come up with the right strategy to build and fashion an economy that can serve future generations.