Thursday 3 December, 2020

Hoteliers, Tobago Tourism at impasse over gov’t hotel grant

Mt Irvine Bay Hotel

Mt Irvine Bay Hotel

Hoteliers in Tobago are incensed by the Tobago Tourism Agency Limited’s (TTAL) approach to distributing the grants promised by central government for the renovating of hotels and guest houses on the island. 

They’ve collectively rejected the Agency’s proposal. 

During a virtual meeting with the Chief Executive Officer of TTAL, Louis Lewis today, many of the hotel and guest house owners expressed their displeasure with the Agency’s issuing of $50 million promised to them.  

They say it’s unfair that the regulations were made without any consultation being had with the hoteliers beforehand. Speaking to LoopTT following the meeting, Mt Irvine Bay Resort owner, Jacqueline Yorke-Westcott, says that while representatives from the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) did meet with Finance Secretary, Joel Jack, none of the suggestions were represented in today’s offering. She hopes his boss can be of more assistance. 

“We’ve got a meeting with the Chief Secretary this afternoon, so once we air all of our grievances to him, we’ll see what happens from there,” she said. 

One of their main concerns surrounds the use of the funds. Smaller hotels will get the lion’s share of $46 million, while any hotel with over 50 rooms will have to split the remaining $4 million. Broken down further, it means that any hotel with less than seven rooms, will be allowed $65,000, while hotels with over 50 rooms will only get $350,000. There are currently six hotels with a capacity of over 50 rooms in Tobago. 

“If you have a place with two rooms and you’re getting $65,000, that’s $35,500 per room, but if you have a place with 100 rooms, you’re getting $350,000, that’s $3,500 per room, make it make sense,” she said. 

To the THTA, it’d make more sense to invest the larger chunk of cash into the bigger hotels since they contribute more significantly to the country’s gross domestic product and foreign exchange. 

The money is expected to be spent on cosmetic and infrastructural upgrades like bars, security systems, gyms, courts, water systems and fencing. Upgrades deemed to serve only the owners like upgrades to office spaces and other personal areas will not be permitted. Replacements of glassware, flatware and consumables are also prohibited. 

Another issue is the sorting process of who will receive the grants. Members of the THAT have raised the fact that despite their membership and their payments of dues, unregistered guest house and hotel owners will still benefit from the government grant. One hotelier called it ‘electioneering’. 

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