With 11 days away from General and Regional Elections in Guyana, the incumbent coalition administration rushed a sod-turning event for the construction of two more hotels here, despite the investors still in negotiations with the potential brand partners.
The sod-turning ceremony on was held on Wednesday at Plantation Ogle, East Coast Demerara (ECD), where approximately 21 acres of prime real estate lands have been sold to Caribbean Marketing Enterprise Inc (CMEI) – a local company formed by a group of foreign investors – to construct two “international flagship” hotels.
While there have been reports that a hotel under the Hilton brand will be constructed at the site, one of the principal investors, Guyanese-born businessman Edmond Braithwaite, told reporters that they are still in discussions with the franchise holder and as such failed to confirm which brands of hotel will be built.
He claimed that they have already secured a commitment from an international brand –one of the top hoteliers in the world – but refused to divulge any more details because, according to him, there is a lot more work to be done and they do not want to jeopardise the negotiations.
One of the seven principals of CMEI, Mike Elliot, has built hotels across the United States and in the Latin American/Caribbean region under the brands of Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Choice and IHG. His company is Energy Real Estate Solutions (ERES).
Pressed as to whether the two hotels will be under the same brand or different brands, Braithwaite said that decision lies with the investors.
“It’s incumbent upon us, who are looking to do two hotels, to determine which one fits the bill – whether it’s one brand for two (hotels) or two separate brands. That’s all the negotiations going on right now,” the businessman contended.
Meanwhile, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) has again defended the deal amidst concerns by stakeholders.
In fact, Privatisation Specialist Rachael Henry told reporters on the sidelines of Wednesday’s sod-turning ceremony that with this particular project, there is a choice of hotel brands given the established connection between with Elliot and top hoteliers.
“They’re in that contract stage and in that stage, they’re not allowed to disclose all the information, and that’s pretty normal business,” she asserted.
Only last week, the sod was turned for the construction of another hotel – AC Marriott, US$75 million project being undertaken by a Trinidadian investor. Like in this case, that principal, John Aboud, has not yet secured an agreement with the franchise holder.
While the entire CMEI project is pegged at roughly US$100 million for the two hotels, when pressed for the price paid for the near 21 acres of land, which were once sugar fields that were vested to NICIL, Braithwaite would only say they paid a “comparable” price.