Opposition Appeals for Extension of Tourism Stimulus Package


Opposition Spokesman on Tourism, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, has urged the Government to consider extending the stimulus package offered to tourism stakeholders to counter the impact of the global economic recession on the sector.
The stimulus package, which was announced by Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding late last year, and which expired on July 1, offered a 50 per cent cut in General Consumption Tax (GCT) for the industry, a loan scheme, and an increased marketing budget.
Dr. McNeill, is his contribution to the 2009/10 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (July 21), said that the immediate challenges, which the “seemingly unabated” global economic downturn poses for local sector interests, has made it necessary to extend the assistance.
He cited recent reports from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) of a 14.4 per cent fall off in global air passenger traffic between April and May this year, resulting from “massive unemployment” in major economies around the world, including the island’s major markets in the United States and Europe. The fallout, he said, will be particularly difficult for small hotels.
“It has been a particularly difficult time for the small and medium hotels. Given the immediate situation with the recession seemingly unabated, arrivals flat, revenues from tourism down, occupancy levels down, especially for the small hotels, these (stimulus package) measures have been critical to their survival. Facing what could be a particularly slow off-season, further help is needed,” he stressed.
He noted that sector stakeholders, led by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), “are in discussions” with the administration about the need to extend the stimulus package.
While acknowledging the challenges the Government faces in sourcing funding, the Opposition Spokesman contended that extending the stimulus package will have a far reaching impact on the sector.
“Extending the stimulus package.will keep people working, help with the cash flow problems of the small hoteliers, and help pay farmers, who supply hotels with locally produced food and vegetables, and, most importantly, contribute to the buoyancy of the local economies,” Dr. McNeill argued.
Tourism Minister, Ed, Bartlett, in the Sectoral presentation on June 30, said that the stimulus package has provided $634 million (US$7.1 million) in cash support to the sector, to sustain jobs and maintain growth. He said that the sector was using the resources well.
“They have used the resources well. There is not a single hotel in Jamaica that has been closed, even though the times are hard globally and things have been tough. We have been able to ensure that, notwithstanding the very impressive sales programmes that we have had to carry out, we’ve worked in partnership with the trade in order to ensure that we are getting better value for the dollar that we are spending,” the Minister stated.

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