OCHO RIOS, St. Ann, Jamaica – Two more multimillion-dollar lawsuits in connection with the problem-plagued Sandals Whitehouse project in Westmoreland are to be filed, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International, told reporters Sunday.
The group is filing legal claims amounting to approximately US$150 million to recover on damages to the Sandals brand name.
Mr. Stewart said Sandals would be filing lawsuits for ‘inferior infrastructure’ at the property, which will have to be replaced. The Sandals boss said there are plans to pursue legal claims to recover costs for the existing sewerage system, which must be improved in order to meet required standards.
Earlier this year developers of the Sandals Whitehouse resort sued the Government to recover operational losses amounting to approximately $28 million resulting from delays in the completion of the resort.
The problem-plagued establishment has been hit by cost over-runs reported to have reached as high as US$40 million.
“It is irresponsible that a hotel should have opened in February, and have to open many weeks with guests being paid for doing everything. Dancing, eating, sleeping for free because we couldn’t risk our name and we couldn’t risk Jamaica,” Mr. Stewart said.
The Sandals boss said that the scandal over the Sandals hotel will significantly affect the industry.
“It (Sandals Whitehouse) is slowly becoming a disaster. It is going to harm the existing hotels,” he said. “My fear is that it will end up damaging the reputation of the south coast.”
Mr. Stewart was speaking at a press luncheon held at the redeveloped Sandals Dunn’s River Villaggio Golf Resort and Spa in Mammee Bay, St. Ann.
Referring to Sandals White-house, he continued: “It has been such a powerful launch that it is going to have a powerful negative for the south coast.”
According to Mr. Stewart, when the hotel was opened in February this year, it was fully booked up to June. But bookings, he said, have begun tapering with current figures averaging 20 per cent of that at the opening of the resort.
Meanwhile, Sandals is planning on expanding its hotel chain to Dubai in the Middle East.
Mr. Stewart announced yesterday that he would be travelling to that country next year to further discussions with interests who have approached Sandals Resorts International to establish a hotel there.