Sandals has so far bought a whopping $4.2 million in supplies from local farmers and manufacturers since November 6 last year.
The revelation came this afternoon from chairman of the Sandals Group, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, amidst concerns that the 25-year suite of tax concessions granted the chain would encourage major importation of its supplies.
Delivering the feature address to the monthly business luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Hilton Barbados Resort, Stewart also said that his globally branded company is projecting that it will bring an estimated $80 million into the local economy per year.
The Jamaican hotel magnate told the business leaders that the concessions, which local hoteliers have been asking for as well, have allowed his conglomerate to plan long-term, put products in Barbados and spend freely and flexibly.
A brea- down of the money contributed to Barbadian suppliers and distributors shows that Sandals, which recently took over Casaurina/Couples in Christ Church and Almond Resort in St Peter, spent $1.2 million in imports, $648,000 directly to farmers and manufacturers, $148,000 with other manufacturers and distributors and $1.9 million with distributors who import produce on behalf of other local suppliers.
Stewart noted, too, that its Beaches Hotel would be contributing $146 million a year to the local economy, while overall income from the Sandals grouping itself had been forecast to be $260 million annually.
In defence of the concessions for the first time since they were given by the Government last year, the Sandals head honcho observed that the tax relief would permit his company to bring more quality tourism products to Barbados and provide jobs and foreign exchange.
“If you put too much weight on a racehorse [it] can’t win any race; and when you burden an industry by overtaxing it, you cannot do enough business. But the real fallout, is not so much the fact that you staying in business or you are not doing business; the real fallout is the condition of the product,” Stewart asserted.
He explained that when a hotel had to pay a lot of taxes, there was not enough money between the competitive rates today, paying taxes and at the same time, being able to improve, expand and modernise the property.
In response, chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, told Barbados TODAY, he welcomed the news that Sandals had bought $4.2 million in supplies from local farmers and manufacturers.
“The Sandals Group has a reputation for supporting local producers, and if they do what they are accustomed to doing in places like Jamaica and St Lucia, I would not expect that the local producers of agricultural produce would not be able benefit, and that I think is good,” Paul stated.
“What we have to do though [is] to try to ensure that the sector puts itself in a position to grasp the opportunities being afforded to it. We cannot wait until these opportunities come up to try to put systems in place. We have to start to look to see how we can aggressively pursue markets in the hospitality sector,” the BAS chief executive officer reasoned.
Paul reiterated, though, his objection to local hoteliers being granted the same suite of concessions given to Sandals.
He contended that the local hoteliers have not proven they deserve such tax relief, noting that for years there has been talk of linkages between agriculture and tourism, but no serious attempt to make it happen.
Paul fears that if local hoteliers get the same tax relief, they would bypass Barbadian farmers and import their produce.
He is suggesting that if for any reason they are given the concessions, a monitoring regime should be established to ensure they are spent for the purpose granted.