President of the Tobago Unique Bed and Breakfast and Self-Catering Association Kay Trotman has said small business owners are struggling to survive because they used up their savings to stay afloat during last year’s national lockdown.
She said the Government’s latest covid19 restrictions continued to affect the small business sector in Tobago, which has been struggling under the weight of the pandemic for more than a year.
Last year, the Government made $300 million available to small and medium-sized enterprises with an annual turnover of between $1 million and $20 million.
The Government, at that time, also agreed to pay all of the interest on loans of $75,000 to $325,000, and businesses were not expected to make any payments for the first two years.
Businesses earning less than $1 million were to receive a grant.
In an interview with Newsday, Trotman applauded the measures to assist small business owners. But she noted many will not be able to access the loans.
“I need to throw in their corner that it is not that we are not taking advantage of them because we don’t want to or don’t have the financials that we said. But sometimes the banks are asking for things that we don’t have, the collateral,” she said. “That has always been an issue, because some of us have used up our collateral, if it's liquid, to stay afloat during the whole year, so now we have no savings. And if the bank is asking for collateral, we cannot provide collateral.
"So how do we take advantage of it?”
Trotman said while the Government’s bank loans were for properties making an income of $1million or more annually, “We don’t qualify for that.
“So even though we may be willing to take the risk of a loan, we just don’t fall into that category. They would have to make allowances, especially for the Tobago properties.”
Trotman said the covid19 restrictions are still having a devastating effect on small properties in the hotel sector.
“We have been having some competition with the larger hotels, who have decreased their prices to meet smaller property prices, more or less.
“So for someone who wants a vacation, if you could get a hotel accommodation at a much cheaper price, they would take the opportunity to do so. So we have that level of competition when there are guests to be had.”
On the other hand, Trotman said some people prefer smaller properties.
“So they would come to you anyway. But nonetheless, with the restrictions, we will feel it a bit more because of the smaller (number) of rooms that we have and people wanting to experience the hotels at a cheaper price.”
Noting the steady rise in new covid19 infections, Trotman said people must take personal responsibility for managing the virus.
“What we were hoping is that as citizens, we would have been a little bit more responsible in our behaviour, because it does not just affect us. If affects everybody else.”
She believes complacency has triggered the staggering rise in new cases.
Trotman believes the measures implemented by the Government to contain the virus are necessary.
But she added, “Unless we, as citizens, change our behaviours, it is going to impact us and we can’t now be calling foul.”
On Thursday, Tobago recorded its ninth covid19-related death, a 38-year-old man with comorbidities.