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(Barbados Today) The Ministry of Finance is being advised to ensure there is clarity on what comprises the informal accommodation sector before imposing taxes on those involved in the programme.

The unregistered lodging sector has been generating an increasing amount of interest among the formal sector, as a rising number of visitors choose homestay programmes such as Airbnb over hotels.

This has prompted calls for regulation and taxation of the short-term accommodation providers.

However, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy warned at a recent news conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre that the authorities must tread carefully.

“I know the Ministry of Finance is keen to get tax revenue. But again before you can tax something you have to find out what it is. It is not simply the case of just saying, ‘all these people are using the Internet to provide accommodation and it is happening outside of the tax net’. Some of these people are normal hotels that are just using it to get business. So we have to do some analysis and go from there,” Sealy insisted.

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(Jamaica Observer) A $385 fee for simple transactions at Scotiabank such as changing a $5,000 note, has created an outcry online — causing the bank to advise its customers that there are more cost-saving methods to transact business.

Last month, customers of the institution filed complaints with the Jamaica Observer after visiting the bank’s downtown Kingston branch with hopes of exchanging the $5,000 note for smaller denominations but was told by the teller that they had to pay a fee of $385 for the service.

An online report on the Jamaica Observer website yesterday was read by more than 60,000 people and got more than 60 comments.

The bank, however, noted that their ATMs could provide services for a significantly lower fee.

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ST GEORGE'S, Grenada -- There is growing concern among international investors in Grenada’s citizenship-by-investment program about the attempt by the government to seize a foreign-owned resort. A court in Grenada has temporarily blocked the government’s plan to forcibly end a 99-year lease and expropriate the Grenadian by Rex Resorts, a 172-room hotel located on the island's southern tip.

 

“It would be disastrous if this happened,” said a regional lawyer and CBI agent who did not wish to be named. “Expropriations by governments really do affect investment decisions of developers, while the perception will affect the decisions of CBI agents and, in turn, CBI applicants. It would leave a bad smell for 20 years. Why bother with Grenada when you can have a safe ride in one of our sister islands?”

 

Government officials said property managers haven't fully complied with the lease agreement and argue the resort has become run down. The government also said it is intent on collecting taxes and feels the property is not being operated in the people's best interest. 

 

UK developer Rex Resorts rejects those claims, saying the hotel is running at nearly 90 percent capacity and that it has invested more than $4 million in the last five years to renovate the property. It also said it is up to date on all lease payments, taxes and fees owed to the government.

 

“Whatever the rights or wrongs of this individual case, the government is acting like a strongman,” said an investor. “People will be holding off making investments in the country until they see how this dispute turns out.”

 

Rex Resorts signed the lease agreement with the government in 1991 and has operated the Grenadian for 25 years. It is understood that calls have been made to Whitehall, the British government headquarters, to come to the defence of the beleaguered British company. There are even calls to reconsider the continuation of the country’s visa free treaty with the United Kingdom.

 

According to a Grenadian government website, applicants seeking to obtain citizenship by investment in Grenada must invest at least US$350,000. They need keep the real estate for at least three years following the grant of citizenship. There is a list of 13 developments that qualify for the scheme, including the Grenada Resort Complex, Kawana Bay Resort and Mount Cinnamon.

 

“The government has not said what it plans to do with the Grenadian by Rex Resorts, though we suspect that they want to sell it on, and a judge has sealed files in the case,” said a source. “The court will hold another hearing in May but, until then, many investments will be put on hold. If the government can do this to a company that has been there for 25 years, how will it treat an individual who just wants to buy a piece of real estate and a second citizenship?”

 

People in the Caribbean with long memories recall the shadow cast over development in Antigua when the government acquired the Half Moon Bay hotel. In June 2007, after 12 years of broken promises and legal arguments, the London-based Privy Council delivered a decision allowing the powers of eminent domain to be used by the government of Antigua under the Antiguan Land Acquisition Act to expropriate the Half Moon Bay Resort. 

 

The only action initiated by the attorney general was to take physical possession of the property in the name of the people of Antigua. With neither maintenance nor security, it took very little time for the property to fall into disrepair. Ten years after expropriation, the case continues in the courts, while the beach is now a garbage dump.

 

This grim story does not seem to deter the Grenadian government. Oliver Joseph, Grenada’s minister of economic development, said that private investors have expressed interest in the Rex property. This reportedly includes Jamaican hotel magnate Gordon “Butch” Stewart. 

 

However, according to local sources, a private Canadian company, Sunwing Travel Group, the largest integrated travel company in North America, which is partially owned by a publically traded German company (TUI Group) is working with the government of Grenada to seize the fully operating hotel.

 

 

In the meantime, the resort will keep operating as usual, unless and until a judge issues a contrary decision following the new hearing set for May,

CHICAGO, USA -- A Hyatt Hotels Corporation affiliate has entered into a management agreement with CTF BM Operations Ltd for the operation of Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, the Baha Mar Convention Centre and a variety of restaurants, bars and lounges, all of which will be part of the mixed-use Baha Mar Resort on New Providence in The Bahamas. The Baha Mar Resort will open in phases, with initial operations at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar expected to begin in late April 2017. 

 

“It is an honour to soon be part of the Baha Mar family, and Hyatt is thrilled to reaffirm its commitment to Baha Mar and to work together to create an exciting new destination in the Bahamas,” said Myles McGourty, senior vice president, Latin America and Caribbean, Hyatt. “Expanding Hyatt’s brand presence in the Caribbean is important to our global expansion strategy as we grow our World of Hyatt platform and bring more genuine experiences to our loyal guests in destinations where they want to travel. Grand Hyatt Baha Mar will undoubtedly become one of the premier destinations in the Caribbean.” 

 

Grand Hyatt Baha Mar will offer 1,800 guestrooms, including 227 lavish suites with high-end amenities and breathtaking ocean views. The hotel will feature three on-site restaurants, including a 200-seat main restaurant, a pool bar and grill and a jazz-themed lounge. Additionally, the Baha Mar Convention Centre will feature more than 85,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space. 

 

 

“We are delighted to welcome Hyatt to Baha Mar when Grand Hyatt Baha Mar debuts,” said Graeme Davis, president, Baha Mar and CTF’s Bahamas subsidiary. “Known for world class offerings, accommodations and residences, the Grand Hyatt hotel will contribute to the Baha Mar guest experience and will join us in our commitment to offering an elevated standard in luxury beach and casino resort destinations.”

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(V. I. Consortium) ST. THOMAS — Senate Democrats, as expected, tonight at the Earl B. Ottley Legislature voted by a 9-5 margin in favor of Governor Kenneth Mapp’s five-year economic growth bill, commonly referred to as the sin tax measure, that will introduce or increase taxes on a variety of products, including rum, beer, tobacco and sodas, as well as timeshare unit owners. The Democrats also supported a measure that creates a base of $360 on property tax exemptions. The combined measures have been projected by the Mapp administration to raise roughly $250 million over a five-year period, which the administration says will help bolster bondholders confidence in the government’s ability to address its structural deficit, currently over $100 million, and also as a first step in the right direction relative to having access to the bond market in the future.

Voting along party lines, with the exception of Senator Janette Millin Young — a Democrat who has joined the minority caucus — the Democrats gave Mr. Mapp, an independent governor, a victory tonight by supporting the measure. Mr. Mapp will return to the territory from Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, and is expected to sign the measure into law immediately.

At his press conference one week ago, Mr. Mapp suggested that taking action sooner rather than later on the measure would bode well for the government, while easing the austerity measures outlined by the governor during the press conference.

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