Nearly two years after the passage of the amended Tourism Development Act (TDA), stakeholders say they are yet to receive all the promised concessions from Government.
Addressing the 64th annual general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this week, BHTA Chief Executive Officer Sue Springer reported that to date the sector had only been given the authority to import alcoholic beverages and proteins, including meats and fish.
Springer also revealed that only 30 hotels had actually applied for those tax breaks, adding that there continues to be talk of adding a variety of cheeses to duty free list of items.
“However, the fact is that the law states that all food and beverage items can be imported. There is, of course, a proviso that any item that can be provided from the local agricultural sector in a consistent manner and at the right price and quality should take preference over an imported item,” noted Springer.
She also pointed out that the situation was being monitored by a committee, based on the signed memorandum of understanding between the BHTA, the Barbados Agricultural Society, the Barbados Manufacturers Association and the Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development.
“At the end of the day the fact still remains that the progress to expand the list has moved extremely slowly and some methodology must be put into place to rectify the situation,” she said.
With many hoteliers currently “attempting” to upgrade and renovate their properties, she further pointed out that Government had given permission for 23 items to be added to the second schedule of the TDA.
“However, there have been a number of issues with the importation of items that have been given a specific time frame for importation.
“It would also appear that the success of obtaining duty free status on some imported items is at the discretion and interpretation of certain individuals and not necessarily by the letter of the law.
“This situation and others have been brought to the attention of [Senator] Darcy Boyce, Minister in the office of the Prime Minister, and he has kindly met with the BHTA to discuss methods of improving and facilitating the duty free operation,” added Springer.
She also reported that quarterly meetings were held with Revenue Commissioner Margaret Sivers and other officials of the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) with respects to the promised concessions, as well as other taxation matters, including the reduction in the VAT rate for Direct Tourism Services.
The newly elected chairperson of the BHTA Roseanne Myers also zeroed in on the concessions, likening the situation to the sitting of the 11-plus exam with the many tests to be completed.
“It really does us no service as an industry and as a country to be sitting here and struggling for something,” said Myers.
“This was legislated two years ago and we still are sitting in the depth and the belly of a problem that we identify and we have a solution for. Better must be done and we know that we can do better,” she said to applause.
As she takes up her new position in the BHTA, Myers pledged to “sit down, take a step back and re-examine” with her new board, what the association has been doing, how it has been doing it “and perhaps look at different approaches”.
“I have great respect for the public service, I really do and I believe that there are people there with the passion to get things right just as we are, we just need to perhaps bring some more critical thinking and look at how we can go forward and set some goal post in terms of how we are going to achieve what we want to achieve,” said Myers.