THRTA challenges Tourism Ministry on low spending on marketing

The Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants & Tourism Association (THRTA) says it has taken note of the release from the Minister of Tourism, regarding Hotel Room Taxes.

The THRTA says that of particular importance, is the minister’s confirmation that there has been an annual remittance of Hotel Room Taxes by accommodation providers to the government, in aggregate amounts exceeding $50 million over the past five years.

But it says that in contrast, however, the Ministry of Tourism’s expenditure under Sub-Item 62 – Promotions, Publicity, & Printing, the vote under which the main function of Destination Marketing is financed and executed by the ministry and its agencies, has consistently fallen from $50 million in fiscal 2015 to $5 million in fiscal 2018, a 90% erosion.

"Put another way, the Ministry of Tourism will have only expended 9.5% of the project collectable Hotel Room Taxes ($52,500,000) toward Destination Marketing & Promotion of Trinidad," the THRTA said.

It added: "The results of this lack of expenditure and underperformance, for the several debatable reasons that have been proffered by the Ministry to date, are clearly manifest (both locally and internationally) in reviewing the International (Stop-Over) Arrivals reports of the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Trinidad & Tobago has consistently lost significant market share from calendar year 2015 to 2017 from all its traditional source markets with total international arrivals falling from 439,749 tourist to 394,650 in 2017. With less than six (6) week left in calendar year 2018, all the data projects an even lower performance over 2017’s arrivals."

"Indeed, if there is a true recognition of the tangible benefits that Hotels & Guesthouses provide to the economy of Trinidad & Tobago, we strongly encourage the Minister of Tourism to demonstrate same through the following:

a. Responses by the Ministry of Tourism to the several letters of correspondence issued by the THRTA over the past six (6) months, all of which have been ignored to date.

b. Ensure that there is direct THRTA representation on the Board and committees of the respective agency with responsibility for destination marketing of Trinidad, (Tourism Trinidad Limited) given the implicit accountability required for the proper expenditure of remitted Hotel Room Taxes.

c. Examine the full range of accommodation providers operating within Trinidad & Tobago and expanded the taxation arrangements to ensure that there is equity and fairness across all operators and increased contributions to the economy of Trinidad & Tobago.

d. Immediately revisit the important regulatory and compulsory business licensing framework for tourism operators in order to mitigate against reputational risks to the destination and increase the degree of innovation and reinvestment by hotels & guesthouses who have a common operating base-line for standards and quality."

The THRTA says it looks forward to engagement by the Minister and Ministry of Tourism in the coming days towards developing collaborative, strategic approaches to policy formulation, product development, and effective destination marketing strategies.