Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy, is insisting that there is nothing unusual about the concessions that were offered to Sandals Resorts.

He sought to put the matter to rest while speaking to industry officials during a reception for the inaugural Thomas Cook Service out of Manchester, United Kingdom, at the Grantley Adams International Airport, recently.

Mr. Sealy was responding to charges from some tourism officials that the tax breaks of up to 40 per cent to Sandals would put other hotels at a disadvantage.

The Tourism Minister said the concessions were the same given to other ventures that were ???similar??? in nature. ???The only thing that is new is the concessions we are offering with respect to food and beverage. That concession was given on the basis that it was an all-inclusive property and on the level of investment involved.

He further stated: ???Nothing has been given to Sandals that was not given by previous Ministers of Finance to other ventures similar in that nature, whether it was Royal Westmoreland [or] whether it is the Pierhead Development Project. We have given them the same concessions with respect to tax relief and VAT and the capacity to bring in vehicles and so on, and of course, facilitating work permits.???

Mr. Sealy said the bar was now set for anyone who wanted to open an all-inclusive hotel with similar levels of investment to Sandals. ???So there is nothing to stop [the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association or any of [its] members from doing a similar thing and getting the same concessions.

???They are not Sandals concessions. They are not [Gordon] Stewart concessions. They have not been ring-fenced. We are faced with a scenario where we had one property that is breeding rats. Couples [hotel] was served notice and we were faced with the possibility of another property breeding rats, roaches and mosquitoes. What were we supposed to do? We offered a concession that made sense and we simply said that those concessions were under review. So, in essence we are looking at the concessions r??gime and there is nothing to stop other players from applying for them.???

The Tourism Minister stated that he was looking forward to more new players entering the market and maintained that there were no secret arrangements involved.

Thomas Cook Service is expected to provide 11, 700 seats a year out of Manchester and will operate twice per week in the first instance throughout the upcoming winter season. The service will drop to once a week and it will be reviewed going into the next winter period.

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