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Beaches resort a key element of Turks and Caicos economy

— says governor

BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive Editor — Operations allend@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 17, 2013    

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Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Ric Todd, yesterday gave a ringing endorsement of Beaches Resorts in the TCI, saying it represented a key element of the country's economy, and lauding its pioneering role in the development of the fledgling tourism industry.

Todd, who has taken on the tough job of institutionalising what he described as open, honest and transparent government, made his comment in an interview a day after similar sounding endorsement of the Gordon 'Butch' Stewart-owned resort by the head of the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourist Association.

"I've always said, both publicly and privately, that I regard Beaches as a very important element of the TCI economy, because it is the biggest single resort," said Todd.

"It brings in about a third of the air arrivals to Providenciales. It is therefore a major contributor to that critical airlift. If you are going to have a tourist destination you need airlift. And the volume of people that Beaches is able to bring in helps to create the space and capacity for airlines and other businesses to benefit, the governor told the Jamaica Observer.

Hotel and Tourist Association president, Texas-born Karen Whitt described the contribution of Beaches to the TCI economy as "immeasurable".

"Beaches contributes, not only as a major employer to the welfare and well-being of the local community, but the spinoff is immeasurable in terms of its effect on the economy of the TCI. There are many ancillary revenue points," said Whitt.

"One of the distinct advantages of Beaches being here is that it has this strong international brand — the Caribbean's strongest by far — as an anchor that brings marketing muscle. They are masters of marketing and all of us benefit," added Whitt, who is general manager of the upscale 150-room Regent Palms.

Todd's and Whitt's comments would have come as a morale booster to the 852-room resort and its 1,400 employees, a big chunk of whom are Jamaicans who send home vital remittances to support mostly ageing family members and children in school.

Beaches Resorts TCI was recently caught up in corruption investigations against some members of the former Michael Misick Administration by British and United States authorities, after a former Sandals Resorts International executive was alleged to have carried out unauthorised transactions in the TCI.

Sandals, which did not admit to any wrongdoing, was asked to pay US$12 million because of the action by the former executive. The fine could have been heftier but for the company's "extraordinary co-operation and transparency" during the investigations.

Jamaica's Trevor Munroe, head of National Integrity Action, in January wrote to Todd seeking clarification on the fine, and yesterday the governor said his letter had been onpassed to the acting attorney general for a response.

In the interview, Todd said that in conversations with Stewart, who is also chairman of the Observer, he had stressed the overwhelming corporate responsibility of Beaches, as the biggest employer here.

"I am satisfied that the resort takes this responsibility very seriously," he said.

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