Gov’t incentive aims at boosting tourism sector

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has announced Cabinet’s approval of the Tourism Industry Refurbishment Program (TIRP) as part of efforts to boost the sector and grow revenues.

Under the new incentive program, tourism entities licensed by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) which are tax compliant, will be allowed a concessionary import duty rate of 10 per cent on a specified list of items for the refurbishing of their properties.

The tourism minister said that entities which opt to purchase locally will be given a 15 per cent tax credit on the total value of local purchases.

In addition, Bartlett said the TIRP is expected to improve the operations and competitiveness of tourism entities.

“The Caribbean and Jamaica, in particular, have over time had products that are mature products and, in our business, the growth in tourism and the constant improvement have been so rapid that unless you are continuously improving and refreshing your products, you’re likely to be left behind,” said Bartlett.

Bartlett said his ministry fully recognizes that hotel properties have to be “perpetually fresh and crisp” to be competitive in today’s market.

With tourism being one of Jamaica’s leading growth sectors, the introduction of the TIRP is expected to encourage establishments to refurbish their properties more often, creating more employment and revenues for the government. It will also enhance the linkages between the industry and the local manufacturing and furnishing sector.

Bartlett said this is an important improvement because it brings small properties, in particular, into the mix of beneficiaries.

“This is also an incentive to grow, to expand, to produce more and we have already on the cards some US$151 million of expansion programs to be implemented,” he said.

Bartlett said the immediate benefits of the new policy are job and revenue creation and enabling greater economic activity within the sector.

“This is a dollar retention mechanism, so that more and more of the tourism dollar can remain in Jamaica, providing more jobs, providing more opportunities for the people of the country.”

President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Wayne Cummings, said the initiative is a tremendous effort on the part of the government to improve the sector.

“The refurbishing incentive that has been agreed on by the government is cutting edge, at best,” said Cummings. “For many years, we have indicated that it is one thing to build a hotel, but it is another thing to keep that hotel in a state that keeps it competitive.”

The entities involved in the TIRP will be required to pay the applicable General Consumption Tax, Bureau of Standards fee, Environmental Levy and Customs User fee.

TIRP will be available to hotels, villas, guest houses and apartments, attractions and water sports operators, which have been in operation for at least five years. The offer is only available to tourism entities and does not extend to importers and suppliers. Tourism entities currently enjoying benefits under similar programs will not be eligible.

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