The Tobago Hotel & Tourism Association has stated its displeasure with the largest ever budget in the nation’s history. Finance Minister Larry Howai, last Monday, told the nation of his intention to spend $61.4bn over the next fiscal year.
In a press release issued earlier this week, the association is clear in its position that the budget under the theme “Sustaining Growth, Securing Prosperity” made it certain that the government does not understand the potential of the tourism industry in the Tobago scenario.
While many of our regional competitors are enjoying marketing budgets in excess of US$50m, Trinidad &Tobago was allocated TT$91m (UIS$14m) for marketing and all other tourism initiatives in the budget, which the association deems unacceptable.
According to the association, Trinidad & Tobago has the largest financial retention rate in the region. That means, for every tourism dollar earned, it retains over 70 cents in the country and that can be credited to a large group of supply industries within the country. The THAT believes this is extremely healthy in terms of job creation and revenue for our manufacturing companies, since it guarantees that any budget allocation for tourism provides a direct and healthy benefit throughout the country.
Further the association stated that the Caribbean region attracts annually over 23m international visitors of which T&T gets only 2%, which to them meant that a massive potential for revenue and sustainable growth was being ignored. Despite this neglect, T&T’s tourism is a $5 billion industry, directly employing 33,000 people. .
The association however, welcomed the fact that the Tobago Development Fund, which was activated earlier this year, was given a cash injection of $50m. However, the THTA is of the opinion that the operation of the rescue package is too slow in materializing.
The association is of the position that Tobago urgently needs to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and needs 1,500 new, high quality rooms to sustain airlift and excite the tour operators in their source markets. In addition to the new rooms, existing hotels need the confidence to re-invest and refurbish. “We are pleased that the creation of a new Crown Point development area was confirmed in the Budget, but to be effective, some new strategies for attracting FDI must immediately be implemented,” the statement read.
With respect to Caribbean Airlines, the association is requesting from government, an assurance that there will be a dedicated fleet for the air-bridge in order to adequately satisfy demand. The association is awaiting an explanation of the arrangements mentioned in the Budget for the airport public/ private partnership as they see it an urgent matter.