President of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA), Chris James, says the association is still waiting on more information concerning the $50 million special grant for hoteliers to upgrade their facilities.
The government-issued grant was announced at a media briefing on March 23 as one of the measures to help hotel owners who will be negatively affected by the downturn in the tourism industry because of the covid19 pandemic.
Contacted on Monday, James declined to say more until he had more information.
The association’s vice president, Carol-Ann Birchwood-James, told Newsday they are finalising the association’s position.
“We have asked our members, and others who are in the tourism business, how much they are using for the renovations, to hire people. Obviously it cannot be now when people are inside, so by tomorrow (Tuesday) we should have that paper ready for when the minister is ready.”
She said, to date a lot of people have done their figures, “But those who have not done their figures should get themselves ready for when this money is made available.”
Birchwood-James applauded the government’s initiative saying, “It’s a good move. We may need more than that, but $50 million is a good start.”
Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Finance Secretary, Joel Jack, said a major hotel in Crown Point, Tobago is among several hotels and guesthouses expected to temporarily shut down operations owing to the significant losses incurred thus far.
This was confirmed by James who said that while he could not give an exact figure as to the number of hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts and villas, “We believe it is about 99 per cent and more that are expected to shut.”
Questioned about this, Birchwood-James said the sector was left with no other choice.
“There is really nothing that we can do. The government is trying to save lives. If you notice, all over the world it is the same thing, with the exception of one or two countries, but everybody is on lockdown, observing social distancing. It’s a loss for everybody in business, maybe only the supermarkets and pharmacies are making money, but everybody in business is affected.
She said business people now have to adopt a wait-and-see approach because there is no actual timeline in terms of when the current dilemma would end.
“We don’t know when things would return to some kind of normalcy before we can clean up our rooms, market them and get our workers back into gear and so on.
“Certainly, it is more looking like November/December when we might be able to catch ourselves, but we’re really not sure what is happening here.”