Barbadian hoteliers now crying out for help from Government have fumbled a major opportunity to help themselves financially.
Ten years after a special Tourism Fund was established to help Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association members pursue product development and marketing initiatives using their own money, it has been revealed that the majority of the tourism accommodation sector represented by the BHTA have ignored the venture. New information from the industry stakeholder group noted that the fund started in 2003 with the expectation that with a minimum net annual contribution from all BHTA accommodation members only they would have raised $105 million “to date”.
But the BHTA has now said “the actual” report card is a disappointing $6.1 million in 10 years, which means that the fund is “being carried by just 12 per cent of the BHTA’s membership”.
“Our accommodation members are the primary contributors to the fund with a few of our DTS (Direct Tourism Services) members seeking ways in which they can assist. Contributions from those who signed up to participate have been steady and invaluable, allowing us to accomplish much with the funds that have been made available.
“However, with a greater number of contributors to the fund, the association would have more resources fund initiatives that currently benefits everyone in the tourism industry,” the BHTA lamented as it reported to members on the issue in a review of the organisation’s performance last year.
The Tourism Fund is managed within the BHTA by a separate board of trustees and was established in 2003 “as a way for the BHTA to effect a more impactful contribution to the actions and decisions which affect the private sector tourism industry and our membership”.
The overall idea was to “have a financial base that provided tangible dollars to support and initiate the marketing and product development opportunities in our industry”. BHTA officials pointed out that at the time of its establishment 85 per cent of hotel members “indicated they would be willing to contribute to the fund if there was a tax incentive”.
But even after a tax incentive of 150 per cent claim value on contributions to the fund was secured, most hotels have not contributed one cent to it.
In its report on the fund this month, BHTA noted that it officially started with members making contributions directly to the account set up and through the Tourism Development Corporation’s facilitation.
The organisation said the fund was “vital to strengthening the marketing and product development influence of Barbados’ private sector tourism sector”.
“The Tourism Fund gives us a collective ability to sit at the decision making table as a worthy partner; to participate and influence strategy and activity that will directly impact our sector and our businesses, to act on initiatives that will enhance of fortunes, and to control our own destiny,” it added.
In a note accompanying their financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2012, the BHTA noted that monies for the Tourism Fund were collected from hotels, from amounts charged to guests and paid over to the TDC, and that at the end of each month 10 per cent of the collections were invoiced by the BHTA and collected as the Tourism Fund management fees.
The TDC manages the remaining 90 per cent and funds are requested by the BHTA for special projects as approved by the Tourism Fund Trustees.
The CCTV camera network, niche marketing initiatives, West Coast beach restoration, restoration of Holetown Bridge, the Barbados culinary team, boardwalk Segways, a competitive study on tourism in Barbados, and Barbados signage project, and certificate training for tour guides are some of the ventures which benefitted from the Tourism Fund over the last seven years.
Reporting to members recently when the BHTA held its latest annual general meeting, Executive Vice President Sue Springer urged hoteliers to contribute to the fund.
“We appeal to all of the hotels to come onboard so that in these very challenging economic times we can help ourselves to improve both business and the on island experience,” she said. [email protected]