by Shawn Cumberbatch
Government has unveiled a “comprehensive” set of proposals to help revive the tourism industry, with an initial injection of $20 million, including energy rebates, on the way “immediately”.
The sector has also been promised additional assistance in next month’s budget beyond the 10 point tourism and hospitality plan announced this evening by Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy, and Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler.
The initiative was announced during a media briefing at Government Headquarters, Bay Street, St. Michael, during which the two Cabinet members defended the current administration’s treatment of the island’s main money earner. Sealy said the initiatives announced “can certainly help to rescue the situation somewhat and in my view also would put us on course for improvements as well come out of this period”.
Measures announced included the Ministry of Tourism partnering with tourism and hospitality companies to grant a credit voucher up to a specified amount in Barbados equivalent to the Air Passenger Duty paid by British tourists who book a two weeks stay with participating hotels.
Also planned was: * Ministry of Tourism to partner with private operates to launch a villa marketing programme. * Ministries of Culture and Tourism partnering with the private sector and community groups to rebrand St. Lawrence Gap into a 24 hour attraction. * Government partnering with multilateral and private partners to build new hotels and resuscitate closed properties, starting with Almond Beach Village. * Provide a $10 million window for the retrofitting of air conditioning and lighting systems in the tourism and hospitality sector. * Extend the existing 50 per cent land tax rebate for investment in renewable energy initiatives to tourism and hospitality business which implement credible energy efficiency programmes. * For the next 12 months tourism and hospitality related entities will be entitled to a five per cent rebate on their electricity costs, continuing for those which invest in renewable technology. * A similar rebate on water bills for such companies under the same terms. * Ministry of Tourism introduction of a programme to increase the number of Green Globe Certified Hotels and implement an international marketing strategy promoting Barbados as a sustainable, green and clean energy destination. * Providing “resources” to strengthen events-based tourism. Sinckler said there would be “initial investment of $20 million” focussed mainly on “the rebates for the utilities electricity and water and the other one for the APD credit vouchers as we call them”.
“And those are in the initial stages for 12 months in the first phase and then we will take it from there. The idea is … particularly on the ones with the utilities, is to get people … active with energy savings and conservation and also with renewable energy,” he said.
“So once those begin to kick in and we see those capital investments occurring in those areas it means that the reliance of the properties on the rebate will reduce over time. So it’s not a permanent thing that will exist. “This is not all, we are going to have additional measures in the Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, some of those are going to related more directly to tax issues on the fiscal side and we will be making those announcements once we have gone through what it is precisely we are doing and costing them,” he added.
Sealy said given the challenging outlook for tourism government had to take action. “It is no secret of course that the Caribbean region continues to face declines with respect to our arrivals and for that matter the spend also, but faced with that reality we also have to face the other reality and that is that … the prospect for improved economic conditions in our source markets is not as optimistic as we would like,” he said.
“The reality is that the Euro Zone remains in a mess, the UK economy is still sluggish and the USA is making at best very slow progress. Canada has …plateaued for all intents and purposes and Brazil … is also dealing with a bit of economic stagnation themselves so the reality is that we are indeed in some very challenging times. [email protected]