A year after Government promised to review the Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) levy for the island’s bread and butter tourism industry and the industrial sector, a decision is yet to be made.
And despite an increase in taxes on the industry several months ago, one top tourism official is reporting a continued strong appetite for destination Barbados.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Senator Rudy Grant told Barbados TODAY officials were still in discussions with Government in relation to easing some of the burden of the GSC levy on the sector.
“We are presently in discussions surrounding that. So it is at the discussion stage with Government at this time,” Grant said.
In her austerity budget in June last year, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced the new GSC, which she said would go towards funding the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA). For households it was implemented at a charge of $1.50 per day, while commercial premises pay 50 per cent of their existing water bills.
This attracted an outcry from hoteliers with industry officials indicating that some of them could end up paying between $30,000 and $60,000 per month on the water bill.
Mottley had also promised that her administration would review the existing sewerage and connection fee charged to south coast and Bridgetown residents.
“We will await the first three months of bills from the tourism sector and industrial sector – those who use a large amount of water – to be able to set, if necessary, an appropriate cap as we have done with land tax in this country,” Mottley said back in June at a BHTA general meeting.
At the same time, while indicating that the tourism sector would have to help with the “heavy lifting” in putting the economy back on a sustainable path, during her budget speech Mottley introduced a range of Hotel Room taxes between US$2.50 and US$10 per night depending on the room classification.
A new Airline and Travel and Tourism Development Tax of US$35 for passengers flying within the Caribbean and US$70 for those flying extra regionally was introduced and took effect in October last year.
Despite these new taxes however, Senator Grant said the destination remains highly sought after.
“We have to be constantly monitoring and looking at what is taking place in the market but certainly, in relation to the overall performance and with respect to the level of occupancy and the total visitor arrival numbers we have not seen a fall-off due to the increased level of taxation,” he said.
“It is something that we do have to monitor [but] I do believe that Barbados continues to be a sought after destination. Barbados continues to be top of mind,” he said, pointing out that this was a common refrain from trade partners.
Senator Grant attributed the continued strong performance of the sector to an overall good product offering and what he calls good airlift that he said the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. was continuously enhancing.
However, he acknowledged that there were several areas linked to the sector that were still in need of some improvement including public transportation, overall infrastructure and health services.
“All those things impact on the overall visitor experience and I do believe in Barbados that we still have some good strong attributes which we are able to promote and sell to potential visitors. So I would say at this stage that certainly from the evidence and the review I have been able to reflect on in relation to our occupancy, that the increase in taxes has not at this stage had any negative impact and that certainly we do have to monitor going forward,” he explained. [email protected]