Antigua: Sandals closure deemed act of hostility

Antigua Observer:-Prime Minister Gaston Browne has bluntly stated that the announced five month temporary closure of the Sandals Grande Antiguan Resort & Spa is “an act of hostility” and a play for concessions.

In an invited comment from the Dominican Republic, the prime minster last night told the state media, “It it is what I think it is; it is clearly an act of sabotage and I am saying that no investor should be able to treat our people in that way”.

Over 700 employees of the top flight Dickenson Bay resort will be affected when it closes for the first time in 25 years. Many of them expressed “shock” at the temporary closure notice.

“Caught with our pants down” said one worker, who has been employed with the company for over 18 years.

“It’s a blow, we did not expect anything like this to happen, it will have a chain reaction on every household because we have a situation in that both breadwinners are working for the same company,” the woman said.

Another female employee agreed that the closure would have a devastating impact on her colleagues. “When I think about my colleagues, for example, who have car loans; mortgages and so on, how is that going to work out?”the woman asked.

The Antigua & Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU), announced at a press conference yesterday that the fivestar resort will close for up to 5 months effective September 20, 2017 for “essential maintenance works”.

However, the nation’s leader had earlier told OBSERVER media, that the closure was not in any way linked to the Antigua & Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) dispute.

“That’s a settled issue. It was immoral for Sandals to hold on to trust money collected on behalf of the state. There is no way they could have justified that.”

Browne said the hotel group recently requested a waiver in duties and taxes on food and beverages, but it was deferred “considering that the other hotels would have made similar demands resulting in the reduction in tax revenues”.

The PM said it was explained to the Sandals officials that the government’s finances were in a very “precarious position” and it would plunge the government’s finances into a crisis if duties were waived on food and beverages.

“We had a balanced budget for the past two years due to the increase in revenue and fiscal prudence. In the circumstances, we are likely to run a deficit and would have to borrow to fund the deficit,” Browne said.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Asot Michael has refused to comment on the matter.

However, callers to the Voice of the People radio programme complained bitterly about the closure indicating that it will be the workers who will feel the pinch.

“My whole generation of the family works at Sandals and this man just got up and closed the property for five months. Somebody stop being blind and stupid, “one caller said.

The callers also questioned the reason for the closure given that the resort will also be closed during the busy winter period.

In a sideline interview after yesterday’s news conference, Chief Shop Steward Aulingston Nicholas said the news was shocking and came without prior warning.

“I have been working with the company for 10 years as a Bar Supervisor and it is the first time we are really closing. I have always worked five weeks and occupancy has never been below 50 per cent,” Nicholas said.

In a July 14 letter to the General Secretary of the ABWU David Massiah, the company’s Chief Operating Officer Shawn DaCosta indicated that Tourism Minister Asot Michael, along with Public Safety & Labour Minister Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin were formally advised by a letter dated July 13, 2017.

In the letter, the company made the assurance that it would honour all its obligations to its workers. The letter also outlined that the company “recognised the importance of reopening as quickly as possible and will endeavour to do so”.

During yesterday’s news conference, the ABWU General Secretary told reporters the union viewed the proposed closure as a blow to the national economy.

“Our research indicates that the company’s payroll loss to our members would be in the region of US $3 million. Taxes to central government over US $615,000 and to various vendors who supply services to the company, over US $ 3.7 million,” Massiah said.


  1. The Crow
    July 18, 2017 at 11:51 am

    That’s what you get when you have your head way up in an investor’s a$$h013! They think they’re untouchable! Doesn’t that being to mind DSH.

  2. Anon1
    July 18, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Lucians watch out Prime Minster Stewart & Chasnet may very well do the same!

    Will the request for duty free concessions be that straw that breaks the camels’ back!

    I would strongly recommend all hoteliers to request the same concessions Fedee is trying to push through for his ex (some may say employers) employers.

  3. Anonymous
    July 18, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    big plantations whilst the citizenry gets the crumbs . Sandals take your business else where. We the people must survive.(Words deleted)

  4. Lucianman101
    July 18, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    This is why giving too much power to the Sandals hotel group is dangerous

  5. 666
    July 18, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    The OECS’ vampire!

  6. Anonymous
    July 18, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    Too many hotels on a little island why can we be more creative in production and export so we don’t have to kiss them hotels exploitation (Word deleted)

  7. mindful
    July 18, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    This is the thing about greed, it is never satisfied; it wants more. So after so many concessions and a take over of nearly every support service, the python goes for the jugular.

  8. Anonymous
    July 18, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Too much power in one man’s hands, involving too many countries. Slow his expansion down.

  9. Jeff
    July 18, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    I am going there in aug 2017. I sure hope the service does not go down because they are for 5 months.

  10. Anonymous
    July 18, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    Caribbean people wake up. Stop waiting for a pay cheque. Start you own cottage industry.

  11. Anonymous
    July 19, 2017 at 5:33 am

    What about guests who are already booked

    1. Anonymous
      July 20, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      Just received an email from BA telling me my sandals holiday has been cancelled i cant phone them they will contact me when they arrange other accommodation. So im expected to spend £4500 and be told where im going on my 50th birthday i think not!

  12. Anonymous
    July 19, 2017 at 5:37 am

    Can some one tell me what’s going to happen now about the vacationers who have already paid

    1. Anonymous
      July 19, 2017 at 7:29 am

      Yes, we’re rebooking to another island.

      1. Anonymous
        July 20, 2017 at 5:18 pm

        we were booked for a week dec7-14. found out thru facebook that resort was closing. to date sandals has not reached out to us a party of 8! we called customer service and this is where i am appalled at the lack of uniform information given by customer service reps. we have since rebooked our trip, same week, to Exuma but had to cancel airfare and rebook new airfare to Exuma! Sandals is requesting detailed plane information of old booking in order to re-embursh for penalties incurred as well as a substantial increase in airfare. What a disgrace, shame of Sandals!

      2. Anonymous
        July 20, 2017 at 5:22 pm

        which island? they rebooked us to EXUMA

      3. ann
        July 20, 2017 at 5:23 pm

        which island? they rebooked us to EXUMA

  13. James
    July 19, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Take not Keith Rowley and the good people of Tobago, this is how sandals does play!

  14. Patriotic
    July 19, 2017 at 9:39 am

    This could happen in Saint Lucia if Sandals does not have its way. A private sector company flexing its muscle when it has market dominance.

  15. Anonymous
    July 19, 2017 at 4:41 pm


  16. Karen Cheuvront
    July 19, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    We went to. Sandals Exuma first week of July. Super disappointed in service and facilities! Housekeeping only changes sheets once in 7 day stay. Inconsistent with towels and stocking bar. Swept carpet and room – no vacuum cleaner! Building one was getting mold in grout in shower and the white hall door was filthy needed repainting. No pool service first 5 days of stay. Had to go to pool bar and wait 20-30 minutes for a beer or wine! Some of the wait staff were unhappy and plain rude! Pool bar employees fighting amongst themselvesves. Blamed weather as an excuse to not take us for a catamaran ride or snorkeling. No wifi in our room till 5 days into our stay! Not anywhere close to the high standards we have experienced at 4 other Sandals properties!

    1. Anonymous
      July 20, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      no wonder they arranged us to go there since they closed Antiqua! totally disgusted!

  17. Anonymous
    July 19, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    Been on hold for 4 hours now trying to rebook and no one is picking up. Very upsetting that Sandals would do this to their customers and the workers who are trying to support their families.

  18. N. Piche
    July 20, 2017 at 5:52 am

    I hope they work THINGS out. Have been to many sandals and booked for st.Lucia nov 2017

  19. Anonymous
    July 22, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    book with a travel agent and they deal with all that stress for you

  20. Anonymous
    November 5, 2017 at 7:19 am

    They don’t care about guest they only care about making a statement to the world boss but he is not scared!!! Pay the tax no more free b!!!!!!!

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