A local hotelier is accusing Government of placing greater value on the international hotel chains at the expense of indigenous lodging.
General Manager of Sugar Bay Barbados Morgan Seale today argued that a state of inequity existed within the tourism sector as big hotel chains were being given an advantage over the smaller, home-grown properties.
“The reason I say that independents [small hotels] have to be given a fighting chance is because we have a tendency to overvalue the big brands. Obviously we want to see chains coming into the country but we have to be careful how we do that and I am talking specifically about Sandals. Yes we want to come with these concessions but we can’t do it at the expense of the indigenous product,” Seale said during a panel discussion which formed part of the third quarter general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
The concessions granted to Sandals in 2013 caused quite a stir among hoteliers here who argued they were being placed at a competitive disadvantage and demanded that the Freundel Stuart administration gives them the same incentives.
These concessions included the waiver of all taxes, duties and other similar compulsory payments on locally sourced or imported capital goods, all consumables for hotel operations, all food, alcohol and beverages; the waiver on all Value Added Tax on services directly related to the construction or cyclical refurbishment of the property; similar exemptions on vehicles for commercial use at the property and similar exemptions on vehicles and personal effects for expatriate staff.
The concessions are to remain in effect for 25 years, after which the taxes will be imposed at 50 per cent of the rates in force for another 15 years.
Government later amended the Tourism Development Act to allow hotels to import food, beverage and consumables, putting them on the same level a Sandals. However, local hoteliers have continued to complain that they were yet to achieve parity.
Seale said this was so despite available data showing indigenous hotels were less reliant on foreign labour.
“The new hotel Waves recently opened and that hotel group has over 1,000 employees but only two work permits. Our hotel has over 500 employees and only two work permits as well and that is something we are very proud of the fact that we promote Barbadians every day. I should also add that none of those work permits apply to senior staff positions. Meanwhile Sandals has 150 work permits for about 500 staff members,” he said to thunderous applause.
The Sugar Bay Barbados General Manager said local brands were now just as competitive in the arena of brand promotion as they had found powerful allies in customer review sites such as TripAdvisor and Expedia. He argued that these sites were heavily relied upon to inform the decisions of the travelling public, and indigenous brands ranked higher in terms of customer experiences.