It is a done deal.
As early as next week local hoteliers should have access to the long overdue concessions promised to them by the Government almost nine months ago.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler gave the assurance this afternoon during a media conference following a tour of the Sandals Dover, Christ Church property, which is undergoing renovations.
Last year, the Government granted Sandals Resort International a suite of concessions. Following that a number of local hoteliers and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) voiced concerns that the rest of the industry had not been offered the same type of benefits in order to better compete.
And in a statement yesterday president of the BHTA Sunil Chatrani renewed that call, saying there were signs of disaster in the hotel industry if certain actions were not met.
“We need to fix what we have, and we need the tools to be able to do so. I am referring to the concessions that were approved by Cabinet nearly nine months ago that we still cannot access. If we are serious about turning this economy around, then we need to create a conducive environment to facilitate the necessary and long overdue reinvestments,” he said in a statement last evening.
However, responding to a question from Barbados TODAY during today’s press briefing, Sinckler said the granting of the concessions to local hoteliers took longer than anticipated because the Government wanted to get it right the first time.
“The concessions which people talk about, they will get them. In fact, I spoke to Minister [of Tourism Richard] Sealy this evening at lunch and we agreed that by next week we will try and get that out,” said Sinckler.
“I want to make the point. We [seem to] live in an instant coffee society; everybody wants everything done now. My thing is not just to do things now. It is to do things now but properly . . . What we are going to do for hoteliers in Barbados and for tourism operators is not a transient waving of the pen, or signing of the document by the Minister of Finance under [the Income Tax Act]. . . . The concessions which Sandals got, all the others will get, but they will get it permanently, in permanent legislation that they can call on each and every time they require it,” explained Sinckler.
He said: “Rather than having to write the Minister of Finance every time they are doing an upgrade to a property, they will get it. And that is why it takes a little time longer than we wanted it to, but when it is delivered there is no second-guessing about what is being delivered. So this is what we are doing and we expect, confidently, that it will shift this industry around in a way that people have not seen for many, many years.”
Sinckler said he believed over the next 10 to 15 years people would come to appreciate the decision to grant Sandals the concessions and “hail it as the best decision that happened to the tourism sector in Barbados”.
The Minister of Finance said he was already noticing “an entirely different attitude” when it came to airlift and potential hotel investors into Barbados.
He said while he was “not selling Sandals as the be all and end all of everything, it is somewhere near to what we want to see happen with [the tourism] product” on the island.
“We are not building a product to last two or three years, we are starting a movement that will last for generations to come and shift the way in which the tourism business is done in Barbados,” added Sinckler.