Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Ancil Dennis says Member of Parliament for Couva North Ramona Ramdial’s remarks that “ghost hotels” are listed to access Government’s $50 million COVID-19 relief funding, is unfounded.
Ramdial, in a media release on Monday, called on Dennis to explain how “unregistered and unknown” hotels were part of the THA list to receive the grant.
Saying she based her question on a Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association’s (THTA) statement that 270 of the 449 hotels did not qualify, Ramdial called on Dennis to be transparent about the distribution of funds.
She also said the THA should agree to the THTA’s counter-proposal for the grant.
She warned that a failure to implement the recommended proposal amounted to “a strategy for election campaigning by the People’s National Movement (PNM) led the THA to underserving, unregistered hotels.”
Speaking to Guardian Media on the issue, Dennis pointed to the THA’s Tobago Tourism Agency Limited’s (TTAL) 2019 Tourism Product Audit on the island’s accommodation sector.
“TTAL used the audit to inform the policy for the grant distribution,” Dennis told Guardian Media.
He also said only “tax-paying, registered properties qualified to access the grant.”
On the issue of accepting the THTA’s proposal, Dennis said:” We have to spend taxpayers money responsibly in this guava season…I will meet with them (THTA). I am open to their proposal but it must be reasonable, given the current circumstances.”
A summary of the audit, on TTAL’s website, said Tobago 580 owners provided 3,700 rooms.
It said the properties ranged from self-catering establishments to large hotels and villas.