Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Both Sandals Resorts International and the Turks and Caicos government are quashing industry rumours that their dispute has anything to do with unpaid taxes, and new developments suggest the two sides may find common ground and hopefully avert the closures of popular Beaches Turks and Caicos.
SRI said the upcoming closures of Beaches Turks & Caicos “are the result of several critical and long-standing issues which have impacted our operations over the past several years. We apologize for any inconvenience caused to our customers and look forward to welcoming them back soon.”
Guests impacted by the closures can change their travel dates to Beaches Turks & Caicos or travel on their original travel dates to one of our other locations in Jamaica, Beaches Negril or Beaches Ocho Rios, at no additional cost, including airfare change fees. Guests can also choose to travel to any of Sandals Resorts’ 16 properties.
Agents looking to rebook their clients or wanting more information can call their BDM or 1-800-545-8283 or their tour operator partner if the booking was made through a tour operator.
In response, the Premier of Turks and Caicos Islands, Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, had this to say:
“On Friday (January 25th, 2019) Beaches confirmed a letter that was in circulation which showed three proposed dates for closure of its operation here in Turks and Caicos Islands, with the final closure in 2021 stated as indefinite. A hand delivered copy was delivered some weeks ago.
“My ministry has been addressing a long outstanding issue with Beaches and my Government and I are confident that with the facts in full view, we can bring an end to a critical outstanding matter that has seen its basis in an arrangement in place since the resort’s operation started in the 1990s and existed throughout every Government in the TCI since then.
“Just to be clear, it has not been a matter of Beaches avoiding taxes or of the former governments or ministers of finances before me (3 actually currently sit in the current House of Assembly: the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Speaker and the Government’s Appointed Member) intentionally leaving this matter unaddressed. The current matter followed an event/action that occurred in 2017.
“A large amount of work has since been vested towards the conclusion of this matter.
“However, as this matter is active before Cabinet, where final positions were agreed and are currently being given effect and certainly before Friday’s publication of the Beaches letter relating to the proposed closures, I am unable to disclose anything further.
“However, I assure everyone that I will be fully transparent on this issue and will set out the facts as reported to and experienced by me as Minister of Finance in its clearest terms as soon as the occasion arises.
“I assure the people of the TCI that this matter will be settled in the very best interest of all the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“I ask those employees of Beaches, taxi drivers, other hotel operators, airline agents and airline workers who contacted me frantically for representation to know that they are being held in highest consideration.
“I implore those void of facts to resist casting wild accusations and unwarranted attacks on elected and public officials as well Beaches Resort itself.
“I wish to thank those in the Public Service especially my Permanent Secretary (the PS of Finance Athnee Harvey-Basden) who brilliantly crafted the most appropriate solution at the very outset, all other public officials (the AG’s Chambers and Revenue Control Unit) who has assisted in getting us where we are now and Beaches (who continues to be a valued and valuable partner in these Islands) for the progress we have made thus far towards resolving this matter.”
According to some reports, it’s not a matter of unpaid taxes but in fact government backtracking on a pledge not to raise taxes that’s fuelling the dispute.
In response, Sandals Resorts International issued this statement: “Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort recently announced several intermittent date closures in 2019, 2020 and for an indefinite period in 2021.
“It is important to note that this decision has been one of the most difficult we have had to ever make, as we care deeply for this island and hold great affection for the people of Turks and Caicos.
“We felt it our duty and responsibility to circulate accurate data in regard to this complex issue.
“It is important to note that we do not owe any money in unpaid taxes.
“We have always fully observed, complied and met our tax obligations on time and to the letter.
“We punctually and properly pay taxes according to the law and our track record is exceptional.
“Much to the contrary, as it stands, we are currently owed monies in over paid taxes. We are heartened that the government is trying to resolve this issue on a fast track basis to which they have our full and complete cooperation.”
Stay tuned, but certainly SRI won’t want to close Beaches Turks and Caicos, and even more certainly, Turks and Caicos won’t want to lose its premiere resort.