Government has granted nearly $12 million in concessions to 40 hoteliers since 2015, Minster of Tourism Richard Sealy Monday announced.
In a one-hour-and-45-minute presentation at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre Monday morning, Sealy told journalists and tourism industry officials it was always Government’s intention to ensure the “right concessions regime” was in place to “encourage hotels to upgrade, to improve, to reinvest”.
“I can tell you that between January 2015 and February 2017 the concessions that we have ceded has been $11.8 million,” Sealy revealed.
“And I think that in exchange for the exchequer missing out on that money . . . 40 hotels actually, all of whom would have received that concession, have refurbished, upgraded, or are planning to do such.”
Sealy titled his presentation on the tourism industry’s performance for 2016 and the forecast for 2017, Tourism Expansion for Job Creation and the March to Full Employment, insisting that tourism would be responsible for Barbados achieving full employment by 2021.
He stressed the importance of local investment in the industry, saying while it was critical to get new foreign investment, the concessions were put in place to encourage more local investment.
“I always speak to our local champions of the industry that we have to give them confidence and the encouragement and the right environment that they too can go and sit down in front of a bank manager and sign a document . . . and create opportunity for Barbadians,” Sealy said.
Government had amended the Tourism Development Act in 2014 to allow duty-free importation by hotels of food, beverages and consumables. However, so far hoteliers are only able to access alcoholic beverages and proteins under the preferential allowances regime.
Other items that cannot be sourced locally, including a range of cheeses, are yet to be added to the package of concessions, but Sealy said his ministry was working closely with the Customs Department “to broaden the range” of items.
“We are still committed to that promise but the administration element is one of those challenges that we continue to deal with and I think that we are determined enough, working with our private sector partners and various partners to see if we can get where we ultimately want to go in that regard,” the minister promised.