by Emmanuel Joseph
The private sector agency mandated to fund tourism-related projects and support airlift to Barbados, has lost significant sources of its annual income to effectively do the job.
Chairman of the Project Assessment Committee of the Tourism Development Corporation, Mark Thompson, told Barbados TODAY that income had dwindled from $3 million per year to the current $1 million.
“Initially we got $3 million from our members when we started in 1987, but that started dropping in the late 1990s. We have lost membership over the years, which has resulted in dwindling contributions,” explained Thompson.
He said while membership had declined initially, it had remained steady over the past 10 to 15 years.
“I think as things have gone on and you go past a crisis, then those who are continuously wanting to be involved, stay involved; as years have gone on, people have to share around their charitable donations and I think that’s basically it,” he replied, when asked why membership had declined.
“So during the past 25 years,” he added, “people have different focus and they want to move to something else immediately, as the case may be, and that’s the reason why.”
However, Thompson suggested that TDC had now seen it necessary to embark on a membership drive to get its numbers back up again along with its revenue.
The tourism executive explained that the corporation was initially established as a response to supporting Government’s tourism drive, particularly airlift, and later evolved into a private sector funding agency for tourism-related initiatives, such as the hockey festival.
He pointed out that the agency had approved $28 million for disbursement over its 25-year history for 275 tourism-related projects and “between $800,000 and $900,000 in the past couple of years”.
“We are still supportive. If the BTA or the BHTA come to us and say we need emergency funding, especially in the current environment, we would support them,” assured Thompson.
He has called on businesses to take advantage of the 150 per cent tax relief under the Tourism Development Act.
“The 150 per cent tax relief is for those who make a contribution to tourism development and cooperation. They get to write it (contributions) off. People have been taking advantage of that; and that is how we get our members. So we want to make people more aware of that so we can get some more members,” Thompson said.
He pointed out that the TDC had between 40 and 50 members, made up of big companies like the Barbados Light & Power Company, LIME and Goddards, along with “a lot of smaller groupings of private sector members”.
“he TDC is working with the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry in supporting its efforts on the Bridgetown Revitalisation Project. But we can’t be everything to everybody. We have to focus on tourism-related things; that’s our mandate – tourism projects that bring heads and beds,” insisted Thompson.
In the corporation’s annual report for 2012, Chairman G. Anthony King reported that membership contributions for the year ended March 31, 2012, were $790,043, falling below the previous year’s figure of $820,221.
“The on-going global recession continues to exert pressure on our member companies, some of which have had to reduce or suspend their annual contribution for the financial year.