THE criteria for accessing $15 million in grants for Tobago's accommodation sector has been outlined by the Tobago House of Assembly.
One week ago, THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis announced a $50 million stimulus package to support struggling Tobagonians and business owners as well as to enhance the island's tourism sector. He said $20 million will go towards workers displaced by the pandemic; $15 million for the accommodation sector; $5 million for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); and $10 million to the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd to assist in the digitisation of businesses in that sector.
On Monday, a flyer which noted that this is phase two of the tourism accommodation relief grant added that eligible tourism accommodation facility providers with two or more rooms who have been in business for more than a year can apply, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, self-catering facilities, villas/apartment and guesthouses/ lodges.
The non-repayable grants can help cover operational expenses towards reopening, utility expenses, landscaping, expenses towards compliance with health and safety standards and Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Industry Certification, and public liability insurance.
Grants range from $50,000 to $300,000 and will be determined based on property size.
Bed and breakfast/self-catering facilities/villas/apartments (2-7 rooms) can access up to 50,000; guesthouses/self-catering apartments/small-sized hotels (8-50 rooms) qualify for up to $150,000; medium-sized hotels (51-99 rooms) are capped at $250,000; while large hotels (100+ rooms) can receive up to $300,000.
A notice on Wednesday said employees in the tourism sector can apply for a one-time disbursement of $5,000, but applicants must first contact their employer to ensure that their name is submitted to the THA’s Community Partnership Unit.
According to the criteria, the applicants must have been employed within the tourism sector for at least three months prior to the covid19 pandemic business shutdown. Applicants must be currently unemployed; provide a BIR number; and photo identification.
Speaking with Newsday on Wednesday, Tobago restaurant owner Kirton Sorias said a previous $50 million grant to hoteliers last year was plagued with bureaucracy. He noted that only "26 million was distributed to all those who qualified for funding.”
He said to acquire the grants offered now, a number of documents need to be submitted.
“Compilation of the required paperwork comes at a heavy cost to applicants, which creates a situation whereby applicants will literally be spending funds they do not have readily available to acquire funding as they are in dire need.”
He said, “Individuals who have previously applied must submit new documentation to even be considered.
“If we are to consider the timeframe of the last applications, one will realise how bureaucratic the process is and it ultimately defeats the purpose of relieving affected applicants. This ultimately may very well deter persons who are in need of assistance, thereby discouraging what the assembly is or was trying to encourage.”
He said overhead costs which run over $100,000 are what hoteliers are burdened with on a daily basis.
“Spending unnecessary time and funds on redundant paperwork do not ease the discomfort the sector is currently experiencing. The tourism sector will appreciate consideration and leniency from the Tobago House of Assembly in this plight.”