SCARBOROUGH, Tobago, Thursday August 24, 2017 – Struggling tourism businesses in Tobago have reached out to the Government for a helping hand as several operators report they are on brink of foreclosure.
In a desperate plea, they are calling on the Keith Rowley administration to give them a tax amnesty and to ask the Central Bank and Bankers’ Association to hold their hands on foreclosures.
“Do what we ask. Put things in place and give us 12 months. We can turn things around,” implored Chris James, president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association.
He told the Trinidad Guardian that hotel occupancy in Tobago is as low as 34 per cent and it was almost certain that businesses would record losses.
“We need a 50 per cent occupancy. International business has declined and we are dependent on the Trinidad market, but we have lost out on the July-August vacation because of the air and sea bridge issues and we will not get that money back,” he said.
James said the situation was so dire that business owners were forced to choose whether they would send home staff, pay taxes or meet their loans, because they were not in position to “do all three.”
“We not earning, we not spending, it’s all grinding to a halt,” he said.
One of the island’s largest tour operators has shut down and relocated to Jamaica.
The owner of Enchanted Waters Hotel and Casino, Ken Patino was facing foreclosure due to a mounting debt to the bank. In fact, he said the bank warned that his businesses would be advertised for sale this weekend.
On Monday, Patino and other business owners got a chance to their concerns in a meeting with Prime Minister Rowley.
Rowley has mandated the establishment of a committee comprising stakeholders to look at issues affecting the Tobago business community, but did not give any commitment to asking banks to provide some ease to the businessmen.