|Development is the “Heart of the Economy”|
|Friday, 20 February 2009 09:31|
“Investment“, the buzz we hear flying around the Turks and Caicos like a bumblebee searching for pollen. Economic impacts of investment, political impacts of investment, we have heard much of these terms in the past weeks. When one looks down the beaches of Grace Bay, the physical impact of the developments that have been realized over the past few years is clear, but what does all the rest mean.
This week, Mr. Michel Neutelings – Head of Development for several premium developments and resorts over the last years – sat down with the Free Press (fp) to give a perspective of the impact of developments on the local Turks and Caicos economy and what it means for the average TC Islander. Mr. Neutelings was interviewed because of his extensive experience in the Caribbean.
Mr. Neutelings discussed a wide range of issues concerning the role of development and developers for the Turks and Caicos economy.
Development is the “Heart of the Economy”, he said. “If your remove the heart, everyone bleeds“.
Some obvious benefits the developments offer to the community at large are employment. Sandals, Beaches Resorts employs 1,135 team members alone, making them the biggest private employer in theTCI. However, not only the direct resort jobs count as a benefit from these developments. 4 of every 5 non-resort jobs are connected to the presence of a resort or the development of one through their substantial network of local sub-contractors ranging from transportation and logistics all the way to the financial services sector.
One might be surprised to hear that a larger resort or development on Providenciales currently generates about $3-4 million dollars a year for the Turks and Caicos government alone in direct and indirect fees, like purchase of crown land, stamp duty, fees for permits and licenses or import duties on construction and other materials. Turks and Caicos Islanders benefit directly because the government income allows for the investment in the infrastructure, the schooling and educational system, scholarships for studying abroad, health services and much more.
Additionally, developers are investing millions of Dollars every year in advertising and PR to promote the Turks and Caicos making it a desired destination for tourist from all over the world. They are currently developing “soft” or integrated services that will see them making deals with airlines, private jet companies, or hospitality companies that can extend the product lines in Turks and Caicos. Mr. Neutelings said: “The extension of the airport runway allowing for direct trans-Atlantic flights and the completion of the new hospitals are vital for the future growth and the success of developments.”
But, Mr. Neutelings also emphasized that the developers are subject to a large financial risk when investing in new resort projects. In most cases, profits are only achieved with the last 20% of the sales process. Hotel operations may not see profits for the first five years of operation. Especially in current economically challenging times this makes the developer’s position extremely difficult, which results in the need for streamlined cost structures.
It is all the more important to use this period to develop training programmes so that persons who may have lost jobs, can at least retool in preparation for the next phase of growth of Turks and Caicos islands. Asked about how he sees the role of those in his profession generally, and specifically in this downturn, Mr. Neutelings replied: “We have to get involved. We want to be able to engage the government and the public and let them benefit from our experiences”. He said further that he wants other potential investors to learn from the existing experience pool to increase the understanding of investment value in the Turks and Caicos.
Ultimately, everybody will benefit from development: Turks and Caicos Islanders, developers and tourists with a willingness to invest in our beautiful country.
Mr. Neutelings is currently Vice President at Dellis Cay, a luxurious private island development only 20 minutes from Providenciales, which broke ground in June 2008 and is slated for completion mid 2010. Having worked in St. Barths, Antigua and Barbuda and The Bahamas, he has been at the forefront of nearly every major high-end development in the ‘toniest’ destinations in our region. Within Turks and Caicos alone, he was responsible for the super exclusive Parrot Cay and the “Carib-Asian” conceptual and design masterpiece: The Amanyara.
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