The Budget showed the Government had listened to hoteliers’ fears over rising land taxes, the Bermuda Hotel Association said yesterday.
Stephen Todd, CEO of the BHA, said hoteliers were pleased that Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, confirmed that a temporary 12 per cent commercial land tax would end in June.
Mr Dickinson said that land tax for tourism properties would be reduced to 8 per cent — slightly higher than the 7 per cent in place before the temporary hike.
Mr Todd said: “We are not happy to see the increase, but we understand the need for it.
“We believe that the Government has heard our concerns about the increases in taxation that would make it difficult for our industry to contain expenses and grow tourism without passing on those expenses to our visitors.”
Mr Todd said the sugar tax and increased import duty on alcohol could hurt the bottom line of hotels, along with the increase in foreign currency purchase tax.
But he thought that an extension of duty relief on materials to renovate hotels would help to encourage investment in the industry.
Mr Todd said: “That is very good news. We were very pleased to see they are going to extend it for five years.”
He said government ministries were working with the Bermuda Tourism Authority and PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a review of the manpower that will be needed by the tourism industry.
He said: “We are going to be working with the Minister of Workforce Development, the Department of Education, Bermuda College, the Bermuda Hospitality Institute and the BTA so we have a plan for training and development of young and not-so-young Bermudians who recognise the hotel industry as a career opportunity.
“We really want to get the message out there that there are career opportunities available.”
Mr Dickinson said the Government planned to invest more in marketing and product development to make Bermuda a more attractive destination for tourism investment.
He added: “Government is working with unions and hoteliers to increase efficiency and boost productivity in Bermuda’s hospitality industry.
“In 2019, when regional competition is fierce, friendly people and beautiful beaches are not enough.
“Reform is necessary to make investing in Bermuda hotels profitable, which will serve to protect existing jobs while attracting additional investment leading to new tourism jobs.”
Mr Dickinson said Government would reduce the grant to the BTA from $26 million to $22.5 million, but tax changes would result in the quango having more money in its coffers.
He said: “As the BTA focuses on implementation of the new National Tourism Plan, its overall budget will increase from $31 million in 2018 to $35.9 million in 2019.
Mr Dickinson explained: “This is possible, in part, due to the introduction of new visitor fees charged to cruise passengers and visitors taking advantage of vacation rental properties.”
He said that part of the BTA’s $25.9 million budget would include the Bermuda Events Authority, which will work to attract events to Bermuda that appeal to younger travellers.
Mr Dickinson said the tax changes came as a result of a review by both the Ministry of Tourism and Transport and the BTA.
He said: “Following this review, the ministry and the BTA were of the view that the current tax structure was outdated, unnecessarily complex and, therefore, would benefit from simplification and updating.
“Therefore, it is proposed to introduce a new tax structure for cruise ships and cruise ship passengers: a passenger departure tax, a cruise passenger visitor fee and a large ship infrastructure tax — with the cabin passenger tax being repealed.
“This tax structure will yield $40.2 million.”