Sod turned for US$54M hotel at Liliendaal

( The construction of a US$54 million five-star hotel and casino at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, is set to begin before the end of the month.

At the sod turning for the venture yesterday, Bhushan Chandna, Director of the Sun and Sand Hotels, which is the developer, said that local contractor BK International is slated to be one of the contractors for the project, which will also see labour and building materials coming from overseas. The Sun and Sand Hotel chain is part of the Sun and Sand Group of Companies, which is an Indian company already involved in the local mining sector.

After the ceremony, Chandna told Stabroek News that apart from BK International, the remaining contracts have not been decided upon.

Director of Sun and Sand Hotels Bhushan Chandna (left), President Donald Ramotar (centre) and Tourism Minister Irfaan Ali holding up the hotel plan at the sod turning ceremony yesterday.

Director of Sun and Sand Hotels Bhushan Chandna (left) and President Donald Ramotar turn the sod for the planned hotel yesterday.

Not only are the local contractors still unknown, but Chandna made it clear that the skilled labour force will be coming directly from overseas as will building materials. “All the prefab, all materials will be from India, China, Dubai and the various parts because our architects are in Dubai,” he explained, when asked by Stabroek News what the labour force will look like. Plans for the hotel were drafted by IDS Universal Studios, an architecture and design firm.

Chandna also noted that various construction teams are also expected to come from India to complement the local contractors.

The planned 163-room hotel and casino will be situated on a 12-acre block located at A1 Liliendaal, which was once leased for the construction of the Lakeview Hotel, a planned five-star hotel that never came off the ground. Former President Bharrat Jagdeo had attended the sod turning for that hotel in November of 2004. Jagdeo was also present for the sod turning of the Sun and Sand Hotel yesterday.

During his presentation, Chandna said that the ceremony was months in the making although he did not disclose when the project was first conceptualised or when the land sale was completed. Stabroek News understands that the cost agreement for the hotel is inclusive of the land as Chandna stated that the land was not leased. Chandna was not able to give the cost of the land when asked.

Chandna told media that currently Sun and Sand Hotels has hotels operating in India and the company is looking to expand. He told Stabroek News that the locations were in the Punjab region, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan. The Sun and Sand Hotel chain is not to be confused with the five-star Sun n Sand Hotel chain operating out of India; the latter has a website and numerous reviews on travel blogs, while the former has none.

Speaking at the sod turning, President Donald Ramotar said that Guyana had to continue to welcome foreign investments that would be beneficial for economic growth. He said that hotels in Guyana meant that there would be facilities to host international conferences.

The President spoke briefly about the various “linkages” in investments that are growing the tourism sector. He noted that hotels would help to develop investments in the interior with “tremendous tourist potential.” Ramotar’s focus on the types of associations coincided with that of Chandna, who noted the Sun and Sand Group’s intentions of infiltrating various sectors of the Guyanese economy through investment.

Chandna stated that the Sun and Sand Group of Companies was committed to direct and indirect investments in Guyana. He said that the proposed five-star hotel being built in Guyana was just the beginning of the company’s intention to expand real-estate interests outside of India. He stated that housing development projects, townships and hotels fell under his purview and this hotel could just be the beginning.

The Group is in talks to set up businesses in the shipping sector, while the company is already heavily involved in the mining sector.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Irfaan Ali took the opportunity to bemoan the media for what he called negative headlines when it came to tourism development. Addressing sections of local and international investors in attendance at the sod-turning ceremony, Ali said, “In Guyana we sometimes shatter ourselves with the unpatriotic negativisms from some sections of the media. You cannot be patriotic or care about national development when you are not concerned about promoting Guyana in a positive light, when the only thing that resides in your mind is to have a negative headline every morning.”

He added that members of the private sector were also critical of the tourism sector but “the very people that argue about meagre investment, you will never hear a word from them about this type of journalism that injures the sector more than anything else.”

Criticisms from the media stem from the lack of information that is provided on companies investing in Guyana and the connections between a small handful of firms that are consistently being awarded government contracts, Memorandums of Understanding and concessions for private development.

Eyebrows were raised when it was discovered that the DY Patil Group had signed a MoU with the Agriculture Ministry to cultivate 65,000 hectares of land in the Canje Basin without any official release.

The appointment of Dr Ajeenkya D Y Patil, Chairman of the Group, as Guyana’s Honorary Consul in Mumbai, was also not publicly announced. It was later revealed that both Jagdeo and Patil were awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Lancaster prior to Jagdeo being awarded another honorary doctorate by the DY Patil Group in 2011.