The Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) wants Government to go further in its plans for stimulus initiatives for the tourism sector.
In a release issued on Friday October 9th, the THTA says the 2021 fiscal package presented by Finance Minister Colm Imbert on October 5 is “prudent and conservative”, given the economic situation brought on by COVID-19.
However, they said it stopped short of introducing all the necessary measures, given Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s recent announcement that Government will focus on tourism and agriculture to diversify the economy.
The tourism body said it welcomed the news that the Tourism Accommodation Upgrade Project will continue until 2023, but wants more done to help the tourism sector bounce back.
In March, the local accommodation sector had to shut its doors because international and then domestic borders were closed. During that time, the Government gave them a $50 million grant to upgrade to their properties.
THTA suggested some of the funds be given to the accommodation sector to offset debts as they had income for the first three months of the year and then in July.
“The $50M has already been allocated, and any remaining funds should be made available to qualified applicants to pay off debts accrued during the period in which businesses were closed,” the association said in the release.
It noted that many stakeholders do not meet the criteria for the accommodation grant and thus cannot access it.
They said since March, when the grant funding was announced, only 53 of the 422 listed properties have applied for it.
“Of the 53, six properties have received 50 percent of the grant funds, so far,” THTA points out.
The association recommended the Government consider the following measures: expand the Government Loan Guarantee Programme; give registered Tobago tourism businesses a Value Added Tax (VAT) exemption for five years; make the island a Duty-Free Zone; and grant a COVID-19 Tax Relief.
The hotel group also wants the Hotel Tax Revenue used for marketing and the Land Licence Order of February 2007, abolished.
The hotel association suggested they be included in talks between Minister Imbert and Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis.