SMALL Tourism Accommodation Owners of TT President, Denise Aleong-Thomas said she was “grateful and surprised” on learning that the 2014/2015 Budget includes a 20 percent reimbursement, up to a maximum of $75,000, for upgrade work on small tourism properties with between one to five rooms.
“This is the first time micro accommodation properties have been granted such an incentive. It’s something we’ve requested for a few years now and we are grateful and pleased that it has been included,” Aleong-Thomas told Newsday on Monday, hours after Finance Minister Larry Howai read the $65 billion Budget in Parliament.
However, Aleong-Thomas said the $75,000 cap was lower than what the group had expected. “The amount of money we spend to refurbish our properties, that $75,000 would be only a portion. We requested a rebate of more than $100,000. Even so, I want to make it clear we are very grateful for this incentive to cover micro accommodation owners.”
Aleong-Thomas also said she hopes the three-year incentive programme, which began on July 31, will be continued in future Budgets and the rebate cap increased over time.
Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) President Christopher James, asked about Government’s plan to expand the TT Hotel and Guesthouse Room Stock Upgrade Incentive Programme, saying it was a good move.
Howai, in his Budget speech said, “We envisage that this programme will lead to the upgrade and refurbishment of guest houses and hotels of between eight-100 rooms. A reimbursement of 25.0 percent of the cost of the upgrade works per guest room is being provided, with a maximum reimbursement of $12,000 per room for properties located in Trinidad and $15,000 per room for properties located in Tobago.”
However, as an interim measure and to encourage upgrade works both in the interior and exterior areas of the property, effective July 31 2014, the rebate programme has been expanded for a three-year period for properties between six-150 rooms with the maximum limit being increased to $750,000.
James said this was “a good move” and one which the THTA lobbied for in its budget proposal. “Now it’s a matter of implementation by the THA (Tobago House of Assembly).”
There are also plans to build a “world-class marina” at Petit Trou Lagoon, located within the Tobago Plantation site at Lowlands, utilising a Public-Private-Partnership. Howai said this would provide much-needed amenities for fisher-folk and boat owners alike, including yachties.
“Depending on the facility they build,” James noted, “we could see the emergence of a yacht-servicing industry where persons with certain job skills can find gainful employment.”