‘Meaningful reform way to go’
Tourism players are hoping that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler will announce measures aimed at bringing significant reform to the sector when he delivers the Budget.
And in its pre-Budget submissions to Government, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) argued that “under no circumstances will tourism, in its current modus operandi, be able to pull Barbados out of the economic morass in which it finds itself unless there are meaningful reforms in the way that we treat with tourism at both the public and private sector levels”.
The BHTA made a number of suggestions addressing areas such as product development, marketing and visibility, investment and competitiveness and a reduction in input costs.
Noting that Barbados was an “ageing” destination, the association said it was necessary to incentivize the addition of new rooms and the improvement of existing room stock to internationally acceptable levels.
Among its recommendations were a major investment drive to attract overseas investors in new hotel plants and, where possible, the revitalization of the many currently closed hotel properties.
It also called for arrangements to allow easy access to financing under “very concessionary terms” and a moratorium on repayment of principal for refurbishment of plant.
The BHTA said a strong, strategic continuous marketing plan informed by research and involvement from the private sector was critical to the island’s sustainability.
It therefore called for the adequate and timely release of marketing funds to the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) and an urgent commitment to the restructuring of the BTA in order to achieve the best possible return on investment.
On the topic of investment and competitiveness, the BHTA asked that Government consider several measures aimed at attracting local and foreign investors.
These included the formalization of legislation to allow a VAT registrant to offset VAT refunds against future payments, legislation to allow group VAT relief and the removal or reduction of the VAT rate on attractions to the same level as that of the accommodation sector.
The BHTA supported the Barbados Private Sector Association’s call to reduce the cost of energy to business by adjusting the pricing mechanism of the Barbados National Oil Company or by any other means that would provide ongoing relief.
It also suggested that all food imports for BHTA members in the accommodation and direct tourism services be reduced to the minimum bound rate. (NB)