Give tourism a bigger slice of the Budget pie, Sir Lester says

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Senior Minister and National Hero, Sir Lester Bird has argued that the $31 million allocated to the Ministry of Tourism in the 2017 Budget is insufficient to meet the needs of marketing Antigua & Barbuda’s tourism product.

Sir Lester made the criticism in the Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday during his contribution to the 2017 budget debate.

He first offered praises to the Minister of Tourism Asot Michael and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Antigua & Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) Colin C James for their performances, but later said: “I would have preferred to see more money allocated to the marketing and promotion of our tourism product. Thirty-one million is not enough.”

In response, Prime Minister Gaston Browne assured Sir Lester that, in addition to the $31 million allocation from the central government, the ABTA maintained a special Tourism Marketing Fund into which hotels divert 2 per cent of the Antigua & Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) collected on rooms.

The monthly average that the fund collects is not known, but according to the CEO of Elite Island Resorts, Rob Barrett, the fund collected as much as $7.1 million in August 2016.

Browne also told Sir Lester that the needs of the tourism sector would be bolstered by revenue from the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP). 

More in today’s Daily Observer.

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