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OBA calls on Government to release details of concessions for Fairmont Southampton

The Opposition yesterday challenged the Government to give details on 15 years of concessions for developers refurbishing the Fairmont Southampton Hotel.

The remarks from Craig Cannonier, the Shadow Tourism Minister, followed the tabling on Friday of legislation for the development brought before MPs by Vance Campbell, the tourism minister.

A government spokesman said projections of concessions had been drawn up by the Ministry of Finance but that details would be given on May 6, when MPs debate the Fairmont Southampton Hotel Act 2022.

Mr Cannonier asked if the projections were “the same numbers the former finance minister Curtis Dickinson was looking at and decided to resign over or, are these Premier Burt’s numbers?”

Mr Burt has held the finance portfolio since February, when Mr Dickinson resigned before the 2022-23 Budget.

Mr Dickinson later told the House he had stepped down on principle over the “quantum of and form of the Government’s support of the redevelopment”.

Mr Cannonier said that “a few things stood out” after Friday’s session — and that the Act as presented failed to address “two glaring matters”.

“First the concessions are to include a 15-year period of tax relief.

“Second, in justification of concessions, the minister prefaced the Act by saying the economic benefits will far outweigh the value of concessions.”

Mr Cannonier called the 15 years of tax relief “unprecedented”, saying it “must be justified”.

“Unfortunately, there are no attachments that would allow the public to clearly see the great deal Bermuda is getting as the minister speaks of.”

He said the Progressive Labour Party as Opposition in 2014 had “vehemently” called for the details to be made public on the master development agreement for the St Regis resort in St George’s.

“They went on further to say, `How can Parliament be expected to give its approval to something we haven't seen?’”

Mr Cannonier said any sweetener attached to the Fairmont Southampton Hotel redevelopment needed to be made public “in order to support such history-making concessions”.

The resort, Bermuda’s biggest, has been closed since 2020 after the Covid-19 pandemic shut down tourism, and its owners, the Miami-based firm Gencom, faltered on securing financing, forcing the Government to step in and cover redundancy payments for hotel workers until Gencom was able to repay.

Mr Cannonier said: “Far more details should be available for such a critical project.

“Having to wait for the debate as the minister has stated is disappointing.

“What is clear is that these new industry concessions will inevitably create an uneven playing field for those already operating in the hotel industry.“

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Published April 25, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated April 25, 2022 at 7:59 am)

OBA calls on Government to release details of concessions for Fairmont Southampton

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