The following post is copied from the Jamaica Observer website whom reported yesterday:
Sandals Whitehouse to close for renovation
Stewart says resort chain remains committed to area’s development
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), has announced that Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa, located in Westmoreland, Jamaica, will temporarily close on August 17 for upgrades and renovations, with plans of reopening December 18, 2009.
The property, which became the subject of controversy because of cost overruns, was leased from
owners Ackendown Newtown Development Company Ltd (ANDCO) by Sandals Whitehouse Management Ltd in 2005
Sandals Whitehouse is a beautifully designed hotel, the execution of which has never been completed and has left much to be desired,” said Stewart.
“Consequently, in this economic downturn, the physical decay of the property has become even more glaring and we have no choice but to close our doors so that the place can be refurbished to an acceptable standard,” he said, adding that the present ANDCO Board had been trying to rectify the issues for some time.
Stewart, who is also chairman of the Observer, had a vision of the hotel being the catalyst for development of the almost virginal south coast, was concerned for the people who would be affected by the temporary closure.
“This situation has far-reaching effects, number one being our staff who we don’t want to see out of jobs at this time,” he said. “Then, there is the wider Whitehouse community of which Sandals is the cornerstone, and ultimately the impact on Jamaica’s tourism industry. We have a worldwide reputation of providing outstanding service and exceeding our guests’ expectations, and we are committed to delivering on our promise.
“At the same time, since we are forced to close Sandals Whitehouse we will do everything to protect our staff and their livelihood,” Stewart further stated.
Original plans for the Whitehouse development included an aerodrome and improved roads from Montego Bay, neither of which ever materialised.
“Our hope is that the Government and the board of ANDCO see fit to act quickly so that our south coast’s and Jamaica’s tourism do not suffer,” said Stewart.
The Sandals Whitehouse matter has been the subject of extensive debate and, at times, inaccurate discussion, Stewart noted. However, it has been consistently clarified that Sandals had no authority to make any design changes during the construction phase and as stated in the project’s Heads of Agreement had no responsibility for the huge cost overruns.
Notwithstanding the hotel’s temporary closure, Stewart said Sandals was moving ahead with discussions and plans for further development of the area which include a major heritage and attraction site, and the possibility of revisiting the plans for a golf course which had to be aborted in 2004 as a result of mounting unfulfilled commitments, costing Sandals some US$1 million at the time.
Plans for the resort’s re-launch will commence at once, and guests scheduled to travel to Sandals Whitehouse while the resort remains closed will be given the option of relocating to any one of the other 11 Sandals Resorts or four Beaches Resorts properties in the Caribbean, the Sandals chairman said