Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy, has unveiled a 10-point plan to revive the tourism industry with an initial injection of $20 million in energy rebates for hotels and tourism-related enterprises.
The sector has also been promised more assistance in the up-coming Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, as government ???pulls out all the stops??? to revive the main engine of economic growth.
The initiatives were rolled out during a joint-press conference with Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, at Government Headquarters yesterday.
Among the measures to be implemented Mr. Sealy said, included a credit voucher up to a specified amount in the Barbados equivalent to the Air Passenger Duty paid by British tourists who booked a two-week stay at participating hotels.
???We needed to do something special in our main market???The APD has had a devastating effect on the Caribbean region. We think this is a good way to counteract the impact of the APD, and allow us to have greater spending on the ground and more bed-nights,??? he added.
Other initiatives announced by Mr. Sealy included: a partnership with private operators to launch a villa marketing programme; a collaborative effort between the Ministries of Culture, Tourism and the community groups to rebrand St. Lawrence Gap into a 24-hour attraction; and government engaging a variety of multilateral private partners to build new hotels and resuscitate closed properties, starting with the Almond Beach Village Hotel in St. Peter.
The Tourism Minister said government would also provide a $10 million window for the retrofitting of air conditioning and lighting systems in the tourism and hospitality sectors ??? which is the first phase of the $150 million Energy Efficiency and Hotel Refurbishment Fund.
Mr. Sealy also introduced a special renewable energy drive that would allow hoteliers to earn five per cent rebates on their electricity and water costs for the next 12 months, in the first instance, starting in October.
For hotels to benefit, they will have to devise a renewable energy and water management plan, which would be reviewed by officials from the Ministry of Tourism and the Division of Energy.
After the first 12 months, the Tourism Minister pointed out that only hotels that have submitted both plans, would be allowed to continue saving the five per cent.
???Electricity bills are high in the sector, so this could be a significantly high saving. The Government has come up with initiatives which I think can help with rescuing the situation somewhat, and put us on course for improvements as we come out of the recession. So, we will continue to respond to the needs of the sector,??? Mr. Sealy underlined.
Another important segment of the plan is government???s decision to grant the hotel sector a 50 per cent land tax rebate for investment in renewable energy initiatives, once a credible programme was implemented.
The Minister added: ???So, once these initiatives begin to kick in and we see those capital investments occurring in those areas, it means that the reliance of the properties on the rebate will reduce over time. So, it is not a permanent thing that will exist.???
Please click HERE for link to Press Conference (audio only).