Opportunities in Trinidad and Tobago’s untapped tourism industry are made all the more enticing by the range of incentives introduced under the revised Tourism Development Act.
Tourism makes up a fairly substantial part of Trinidad’s economy, contributing 8.2% to GDP and employing around 4.5% of total workforce in 2013, according to a recent report by the World Travel and Tourism Council. While the industry has grown significantly in recent years, it remains largely underdeveloped and untapped in comparison to other Caribbean nations. As Trinidad and Tobago aims to diversify its economy away from oil and gas, the government has put a lot of emphasis on the development of the tourism industry, which offers lucrative opportunities and incentives for foreign investors.
“Trinidad and Tobago seeks to evolve and become a multi-dimensional economy that fosters an investor-friendly environment and stimulates the expansion of a dynamic tourism industry,” says Minister of Tourism Gerald Hadeed. “We encourage foreign investment in the sector, through opportunities for land-use development, be it single operator ventures to complex, capital-intensive projects. The most attractive of these opportunities are in the accommodation sector, and in ancillary projects of development in any newly evolving niches in the industry.”
Opportunities in both accommodation and ancillary facilities include: hotels, campsites, guesthouses, marinas, cultural centers, golf courses, tour operations, watersport facilities and transportation. There are also investment opportunities in vital infrastructure to support tourism development, such as in heliports, seaports and airports, roads and irrigation, communications and public utilities (namely, water, electricity and sewage).
“The development of targeted niche tourism products and services will also showcase the various aspects that Trinidad and Tobago has to offer as a tourism destination. These niches will include: eco-tourism, community-based tourism, sports tourism and cultural heritage tourism, to name a few, and will be the focal point of the local tourism sector’s growth,” says Minister Hadeed.
The Tourism Development Act provides attractive tax benefits and other incentives to owners or operators of approved tourism projects in Trinidad and Tobago. These include a seven-year tax holiday with respect to gains or profits from approved tourism projects, and duty-free importation of building materials and tourism equipment to be used exclusively in connection with the tourism project. There are incentives that are specific for the tourism transportation sector, such as exemption from the payment of motor vehicle tax and a significant reduction in customs duties.
The Ministry of Tourism also provides other incentives for the development of the tourism infrastructure. The Government Loan Guarantee (GLG) program was developed to support new tourism projects by guaranteeing up to 70% of total project costs. The Hotel Room Stock Upgrade Incentive Project aims to encourage owners of guesthouses and small and medium-sized hotels to upgrade their existing room stock to first-class level, in order to meet or exceed the Trinidad and Tobago Standard Requirements for Tourist Accommodation. Under this scheme, investors are reimbursed 25% of the cost of upgrade works per room, up to a specified maximum amount.