The Minister of Finance, Hon. Nazim Burke, together with the Minister for Tourism, Senator George Vincent, and other senior Government Officials, on Thursday June 28, 2012, met with a representation of the hotel sector to discuss and explore feasible options on issues currently affecting the sector.
In addressing the gathering, Minister Burke spoke of the challenges facing the economy and the need for everyone to work together to find realistic solutions that can be beneficial to everyone. He spoke of collective responsibility and need for everyone to fully understand that these are not ‘ordinary times’. He assured the hoteliers that Government will continue to do all in its power to assist in whatever way possible.
Minister Vincent spoke of Government’s commitment for the further development of the tourism sector which includes negotiating for increased airlift; using technology in advertising the destination; and proceeding with the establishment of the Tourism Authority. He spoke of the fact that Government was able to negotiate additional flights from New York, with Caribbean Airlines, for the Diaspora Homecoming. He also highlighted that Government was able to obtain funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for three Grenadians to attend a workshop in Jamaica (DigitalJam) where they are being exposed to the use of cellular phone technology in marking and promotion.
According to the hoteliers, some of the major challenges they currently face include:
- Low occupancy levels;
- High financing cost; and
- High energy Costs
As a result, they have been forced to implement measures, such as scaling down of operations and staff rotation, in an effort to sustain their operations. They presented some initiatives they have developed, including an aggressive local marketing campaign, which they hope to implement shortly. They welcomed Government’s support in this regard.
Based on the discussions, the following have been agreed to:
1. An Emergency Working Committee (EWC) will be constituted. This Committee will be made up of the Permanent Secretaries of the Ministries of Finance and Tourism; Other Senior Government Officials from the Ministries of Finance, Environment, and Prime Minister’s Office; and representatives from the Hotel Sector and Private Sector interest. The Ministers of Finance and Tourism will provide policy direction.
2. A smaller task force will convene immediately to establish the terms of reference for the EWC. The members of this task force are Mr. Christopher De Riggs, Director of Private Sector Development; Mr. Curlan Gilchrist, Head of the Policy Unit, Ministry of Finance; and Mr. Russel Fielden, President of the GHTA.
3. The hoteliers will develop a written report of the present situation of their sector which will be submitted to Cabinet so that they can be properly apprised and also provide policy oversight on this matter.
4. A meeting will be set up, by the Ministry of Finance, between the bankers, hoteliers and Government, to explore approaches that can be used to address the financing challenges of the sector.
The Minister of Finance agreed to continue engaging with the sector to find creative solutions in addressing the challenges that now confront them.