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Beaches Resort Turks & Caicos says ‘incompetence’ and ‘ineffectiveness’ prolonging closure

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#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – October 15, 2020 — Although vacation bookings for the October 14 opening of Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos were not through the roof, executives today explained it was not expected that they would be and the slow crawl of tourism amidst the coronavirus pandemic is absolutely not the reason the 700+ room resort has delayed its restart. 

Magnetic Media was aiming to ascertain if there could be alternative causes for the announcement of a delay just five days before the luxury family all-inclusive was expected to open its double gates to guests.

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Our probing, however, only unearthed more of the same; Beaches will not re-open to tourism until a four-year-old tax dispute is addressed.

“Breaches of our Development Agreement(s) and other legally binding commitments have yet to be resolved for nearly 4 years, despite tireless efforts by Beaches.  The Board of Directors has therefore mandated that the re-opening of Beaches be postponed,” said BTC in a statement on Friday, October 9.

Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, Chairman of Sandals Resorts International which owns Beaches, has a high level executive team in country, hoping to end the stalemate.  Progress is however, slow going and this legal limbo is characterised as the worse experience Beaches Resort has ever encountered.

“Our team and the citizens of the TCIG deserve so much better from an elected government. Unfortunately, we must admit that this is the most ineffective Government we have ever had to deal with when compared to the other jurisdictions in which we operate. Our Development Agreement(s) and other legally binding written commitments have been disregarded and trampled on.”

Many residents are dumb-struck by the allegations.  Could government really be this irresponsible about untangling a fiscal mess with such a prominent investor and mammoth partner in tourism?

Beaches Craft Market day; Photo by Magnetic Media in February 2020

Five days later and no assurances are coming from the Ministry of Finance, which is led by Sharlene Robinson, the Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

It is a wait and see as the Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG) has, since the disappointing announcement, been mute; having stated previously it prefers not to engage in a public row with the resort which employs 2,000 people; the largest employee complement in the private sector. 

Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos however, is less given to silence and is not playing coy; a new press statement issued today to Magnetic Media called the Government Administration incompetent.

“Beaches is told that the TCIG has been “working hard” to resolve the matter. If that is the case, then 4 years later it certainly appears to us that it is incompetence.”

This fiscal fiasco cannot be blamed on COVID-19.  The ongoing dispute does however deepen the already severely depressed Turks and Caicos economy. Turks and Caicos tourism, as a result of the unrelenting ravages of the pandemic on the travel industry, is forecast to fall by over 50 percent and that could worsen.

Hon Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, Chairman, Sandals Resorts International

“Beaches empathises with the hardship being experienced by so many.  Commercial activity has been at a standstill since March of this year.  Time is of the essence for the TCIG to bring economic activity back to life to ensure the wellbeing and health of the citizens of the TCI who have suffered for far too long.  This continued inaction by the TCIG is so grave that Beaches would be irresponsible if we were to remain silent.”

Chairman Stewart, Magnetic Media is informed, was prepared to reopen Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos with the irregularly low bookings.  The expectation brought hundreds of staffers back to work at the start of the month in preparation for the first guests.  Team members we spoke to were happy, optimistic for the first time in a long time and they were not alone. 

Beaches Resort’s expansiveness brings buoyancy to the entire island of Providenciales and beyond – taxi drivers, retailers, grocers, craft market vendors other hotels, sister islands and the airlines are all happier when Beaches is open.

“As the anchor resort in the TCI, we can assure our incredible and dedicated team members together with the taxi association and the wider community that we remain committed to the Turks and Caicos Islands.  We continue to extend our hand in having this matter resolved fairly.”

Beaches responded to Magnetic Media with the explanation that the company is not trying to bully the government and regrets that it did not keep its promise to open on Wednesday.

Before the Covid-19 Pandemic crashed the travel and tourism industry; tourism was projected to surge beyond the 600,000 long stay visitor mark for Turks and Caicos. Photo by Magnetic Media in February 2020

“Beaches Resorts like so many others, looked forward to re-opening its doors on October 14, 2020. Sadly this did not take place despite every effort, humanly possible by our team to have these long outstanding matters resolved with the TCIG.  Beaches has been extremely clear for nearly 4 years, that it owes no taxes whatsoever. As such, there is no favour or forgiveness being sought from the TCIG.”

Beaches adds, they believe the matter related to the dispute about unpaid or over paid taxes could be resolved in a matter of days. 

Beaches Resort Villages & Spa in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos has given its new reopening date as November 18.

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Statement on Incident Involving Visitor on 2nd October 2022

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#TurksandCaicos, October 4, 2022 – The Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) regrets the unfortunate incident involving the death of a visitor to our islands on 2nd October 2022.  The incident which occurred was accidental and not one in which the victim was targeted.  While the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police force (RTCIPF) continues their investigations, we wish to reassure the public (citizens, residents, and visitors alike) that the safety and security of all, is our top priority.

The TCI has long established itself as a safe destination for visitors from around the world.  Evidence of this can be seen in the countless awards the destination has won, most recently at the World Travel Awards.  Our commitment to providing safety to residents and visitors is unwavering.  The government will continue to work with local authorities including the RTCIPF and our partners in the international community to protect residents and visitors alike.

The incident which occurred on the date mentioned above is one that is rare and does not reflect who we are as a people.  On behalf of the government and people of these islands, we extend our sympathies to the family and friends of the victim.

As this matter is now an on-going police investigation, further statements will be referred to RTCIPF.

The TCI remains a safe destination and the government is working assiduously for it to remain as such.

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Health

COVID Vaccine mandate expires Dec 31, TCIG stalled on ending it sooner

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By Deandrea Hamilton & Dana Malcolm

Editorial Staff

 

#TurksandCaicos, September 30, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos does not seem primed to do away with its Covid-19 vaccine mandate for entry to the islands just yet, Magnetic Media learned from Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and Human Services.

Robinson maintained that “As usual all remaining regulations are continuously under review. Current regulations expire December 31st.”

Despite them being under constant review, the Minister gave no indication that the Turks and Caicos Islands Government would accelerate any change to the rule.

The question though, is why? The Turks and Caicos Islands Government has continuously stated that it is following the science and the UKs lead when it comes to the country’s Covid-19 response.  The UK dropped its vaccine mandate for entry back in March as the country was coming off of the Omicron wave and dozens of other countries have done so since.

In terms of the science, not only does vaccination not stop the virus from spreading to vulnerable islanders, the earliest vaccines and boosters have notoriously little efficacy against the circulating variants.

In addition, there is little evidence to suggest that allowing unvaccinated individuals within borders has a negative effect on that country’s Covid case count.

Not only are the islands missing out on a major chunk of their source markets who are unvaccinated, homeowners who are unvaccinated have not been able to return to or see their property investments since the mandate was adopted in September 2021.

Deputy Premier E Jay Sanders had explained that, “thanks to the country’s over performing tourism sector when the decision is made to pull back that requirement it will be done not out of pressure but with the TCI people in mind.”

It’s unclear what the reasoning behind keeping the mandate is when it now has been proven to provide so little protection.

Additionally, it was explained that multiple attempts by the Ministry of Health to secure avenues for unvaccinated homeowners in the Turks and Caicos to visit their properties have been rebuffed at the Cabinet level.

Robinson was addressing the continued COVID-19 vaccine requirement for travel to the TCI which blocks unvaccinated tourists and homeowners from entering the island.

“On several occasions, I have presented possible pathways for homeowners to be able to visit their properties outside of a full repeal of the vaccine entry mandate and each time there was not full support for it moving forward in Cabinet,” he said.

Magnetic Media has spoken to irate and broken-hearted  homeowners who have not been able to visit their properties in a year despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and other fees to have a home on the islands.

The Health Ministry however says his team is now preparing a cabinet paper to weigh the pros and cons of continuing with the vaccine mandate.  Robinson said that paper has not made the agenda as yet, taking a back seat to more pressing issues including the passing of Hurricane Fiona.

The paper should reach cabinet “soon” but this is not a guarantee that the measure will be dropped. Robinson also defended the TCIG’s current policy.

“Based on the numbers I have received from the (tourism) industry to date, being one of the few only remaining destinations with a vaccine mandate doesn’t seem to be hurting our projected occupancy rates for the months of December, January, and February across all segments of the Industry.”

The issue of why the vaccine mandate persists are heightened due to major announcements in recent days including, Joe Biden, US president declaring that the Coronavirus Pandemic “is over”; Canada moving to end its vaccine entry requirement on September 30 and The Bahamas calling off mandatory testing as of September 22 and rescinding the mask rule (for most public places) on October 1.

The mandatory vaccine measure came into effect in September 2021 prior to the widespread emergence of Omicron and lowered vaccine efficacy.  It is also a mandatory requirement for guest workers in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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News

Turks and Caicos Islands Rebounding Quickly from Hurricane Fiona

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#TurksandCaicos, September 30, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos Islands is working around the clock to quickly rebound from the effects of Hurricane Fiona, which hit the islands as a Category 3 storm on Tuesday, September 20th 2022.  By 11:50PM EDT of the same day, the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) advised that hurricane warning for the Turks and Caicos Islands was discontinued and stated that the National All-Clear was given by the Department of Meteorology.

Preliminary assessments indicate that significant damage across the country was minimal.  Major airport updates are as follows:

  • The Providenciales International Airport re-opened on Wednesday, September 21st 2022 for all flight operations.
  • The South Caicos Airport re-opened on Thursday, September 22nd 2022 for all flight operations
  • The JAGS McCartney International Airport in Grand Turk re-opened on Thursday, September 22nd for emergency and medical flights
  • Airport operations on North Caicos and Salt Cay remain closed until further notice

Carnival Cruise Line is currently working alongside the Turks and Caicos Islands Government to conduct preliminary assessments of the port facility at the Grand Turk Cruise Center. Once completed, all necessary measures will be taken to have the port operating as soon as possible.

Yesterday, during the briefing in the NEOC, the Acting Governor, Her Excellency Anya Williams advised that Public Service in Providenciales would re-open on Thursday, September 22nd 2022 – restoring normal service delivery.

“We thank God that the Turks and Caicos Islands was able to hold strong through Hurricane Fiona – with only minor damages and without any lives lost.  The following day after receiving the National All-Clear from the NEOC, the hub to the Turks and Caicos Islands – the Providenciales International Airport – was re-opened and international flights arrived” stated Minister of Tourism, Hon. Josephine Connolly.  “But while we were extremely fortunate, we acknowledge that some of our neighbouring countries were not and our thoughts and prayers are with them”, added Hon. Connolly.

“A day after Hurricane Fiona, we were already welcoming guests back to the home of the World’s Best Beach, Providenciales”, stated Acting Director of Tourism, Mary Lightbourne. “Resorts and hotels in Provo are fully operational, so we encourage guests to keep their travel plans to visit. And in the upcoming days, we will welcome visitors to our sister islands” added Lightbourne.

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