Speaker welcomed guests and noted that in the past there was a hostile relationship between parliament and tourism operators specifically both TATO and HAT. It is perceived that as associations we merely aim to oppose all government initiatives and were seen as unpatriotic. As associations we stressed to the speaker that this was not the aim of either association and showed ways in which we have been working closely with the government for the growth of tourism. He acknowledged that there seems to have been some changes and agreed to open more opportunities for a platform with him and the parliament.
The challenge has been that when any issue of tourism arises in parliament, there were hardly any MPs knowledgeable to speak on behalf of the sector. Throughout last year and continuing this year, TCT, HAT, TATO have actively been engaging MPs to educate them more about the sector through workshops and field visits and it is starting to bear fruit.
There is still a HUGE, STEEP hill to climb however in changing the mindset of the entire government including the MPs we are trying to expose. All in government are still convinced that tourism operators through the different modalities are hiding money from the country.
TRA Commissioner General warned that they have finalised several investigations and there will soon be a clean-up. He stressed that too many operators had been operating illegally. He also lamented on the fact that for a sector that gives the country the highest forex, we contribute less than 3% to income tax. This lamentation is shared all the way up to the Ministry of Finance, which is why it has been so hard to see any incentives given in tourism. We are well aware there will always be some dishonest people in the industry, as is anywhere, but as I said, it’s an uphill climb, the perception is so deeply rooted and it is starting to influence policies. It will only take hard facts and statistics to curb this perception. All associations are working on sourcing funds to get this done, and it is our hope when the time comes and surveys are circulated, many will be transparent so that we can a tool to use to counter the government’s belief. The CG did promise however to have TRA meet with stakeholders and highlight what those findings were and in which way they were against the law.
- The Speaker having a tourism background as conservator, board member of NCAA and Chair or Tourism Permanent Committee (PC) in the past agreed whole heartedly on the minimum 6 month’s notice period. He confessed that issues such as VAT had been very sensitive but promised to work hard in terms of laws from parliament this was controlled. GNs such as the concession fee however, are Ministerial and at authority level.
- He agreed for more frequent engagement with parliament committees to give them exposure to the tourism industry so as to understand the impacts of legislation that is passed.
- He agreed that there was a need for government to adhere to what is resolved as win-win situations in dialogues and stressed that we make use of PC on this aspect whenever there are issues that we feel have not been implemented as agreed.
- He noted the issue of lack of trust that has continued to be a long outstanding problem but hoped that now that the engagement had become more frequent, over time, this would ease and start to open the opportunities for tourism.