Finance Minister Colm Imbert has promised to review the Tobago Tourism Development Fund to consider concessions for businesses in other sectors that are closely linked to tourism.
Responding to a query on the criteria process posed by Tobago Agro-Processors Association chairman, Darilyn Smart, at last Wednesday’s relaunch of the Fund at the Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort in Lowlands, Imbert said even if the Fund could not facilitate other businesses not directly involved in tourism, he would consider stetting up another fund for this purpose.
Smart told Imbert that members of the Association had previously applied but were told by the banks that they did not qualify for funding.
“They said that we are very risky if we qualify, so I wanted to know if those issues were looked at. We provide products that are used in the hotel industry. Our products are taken to the World Travel Market to promote Tobago, and we found that it was a bit unfair that we cannot participate in the loan guarantee,” she said.
In response, Imbert said: “When we looked at the list of businesses that benefitted from the facility in the past, we saw a welding shop and that caused some consternation until it was determined that this particular business manufactured specialised kitchen counters for use in hotels and guesthouses, so it just kind of scraped through. This is a tourism focused facility, I would certainly give some serious consideration for what you have asked and if it is not possible to give you these facilities on this fund, we can certainly establish another fund to deal with businesses such as yours.”
Diane Hadad of the Tobago Division of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, asked “if they (businesses) supply pepper sauce and so on and supply it to the hotels and so on, aren’t they apart of the chain?”
Imbert responded: “That is what I meant by serious consideration if there is that connection. It (Fund) was designed specifically for hotels, guesthouses, dive shops and so on. I have no problem with extending it to other businesses that are connected to the tourism industry, so that is why I said I would very seriously consider it.”
It was announced at the relaunch that Tobago hoteliers, as from December 1, can now benefit from a 50 percent increase in reimbursements for upgrade to plant through the Fund.
Jerry Hospedales, Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Business Development Limited (which administers the Fund), announced that for the Hotel and Guest room stock upgrade programme, reimbursement of expenditure on the cost of work has doubled from 25 percent to 50 percent with a maximum reimbursement limit from $750,000 to $1.5 million. Under the Small Approved Tourism Properties Programme, reimbursement of expenditure for work done per room has also doubled, increasing increased from 20 percent to 40 percent. And the maximum reimbursement limit for the Small Approved Tourism Properties programme has increased from $75,000 to $150,000.
Hospedales also outlined criteria for accessing the Fund.
“In order to be eligible, persons must be operating a business in the tourism sector for three years in Trinidad and Tobago. They must be servicing existing debts for at least 12 months over the past three years, employing a workforce of at least five persons and making required annual payments of guarantee fees of one percent on the existing loans and on the declining balances.
“The benefits for users of the fund is an interest subsidy of five percentage points provided by the Government and funded by the Tobago Tourism Development Fund, a longer maturity period of 15 years provided by the financial institutions of which seven years would be covered by the guarantee and eight years unsecured by the commercial banks as well as comfort that usage could be enhanced in
the terms and conditions of the lending, thereby creating a cash flow profile to meet the exigencies of the business,” he said.