President of the Ghana Hotels Association (GHA), Dr. Edward Ackah-Nyamikeh Jnr, has said government responded positively to the 10-point blueprint recovery plan presented to it for the revival of hotels’ operations and the wider hospitality sub-sector, which have been crushed by the ongoing pandemic.
The recovery plan was presented at a press conference that was held last month, and saw stakeholders in the hospitality sub-sector list critical steps to government aimed at supporting the industry to accelerate its recovery from the loss of business occasioned by COVID-19.
Speaking to the B&FT in an interview, Dr. Edward Ackah-Nyamikeh Jnr. revealed that after the press conference, Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Barbara Oteng Gyasi reached out to him – indicating that she is in engagement with the Minister of Finance to address the concerns raised at the press conference.
He revealed that dialogue is currently underway between the ministers and a team from the association.
“I must say that this is positive feedback from the conference we had last month. And I must also add that right after the press conference, we received some notification about disbursement of funds to some members – only we have not been able to put all the figures together to know how many have been given and how much has been disbursed to them,” he said.
He added that they are following up on these steps already taken by government, and awaiting the ongoing engagement’s outcome to fully assess government’s response.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data published by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) indicated the economy in the second quarter of 2020 faced the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, contracting for the first time in four decades. This was attributed largely to the hospitality sector’s appalling performance.
The data showed that the hospitality sector, especially hotels and restaurants, were the most affected by the pandemic and contributed significantly the economy’s contraction, shrinking by as much as 79.4% in the second quarter of 2020.
Expressing confidence as a result of proactivity on the part of government, Dr. Ackah-Nyamikeh Jnr added: “I am very hopeful that something good is going to come out from the meeting since the minister’s engagement with me started even before the press conference; plans were already made for that press conference to come, and so it could not be called off even though she had talked about having a meeting with them”.
He added that since stakeholder engagements are ongoing, he will only be able to communicate further developments as events progress.
According to Dr. Ackah-Nyamikeh Jnr., the first thing to help the recovery would be government directing the refund of water bills paid by hotels for the months of April to September 2020, and to also introduce a 50 percent electricity discount to hotels for the last quarter of the year – i.e. October, November and December 2020.
Also, government must impress upon the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) to speed up the stimulus package loan disbursement process, as well as impress upon the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts (MoTAC) to speed up the Ghana Tourism Development Project (GTDP) grant disbursement process.
The hoteliers are also requesting further and better particulars on the GH¢3billion facility government agreed with commercial banks to support the operation of selected industries, and how the up-market hotels could access it. “We want a suspension of paying VAT, NHIL, and GETFund by hotels for the last quarter of the year – i.e. October, November and December 2020; or at the very least, put all hospitality enterprises on the 3 percent rate for Output Tax,” he said.
Also, the hotels want an extension of the remission of penalties on principal debts to taxpayers who redeem their outstanding debts due the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to 31st December 2020; and also a directive for all Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and hotel regulatory bodies to extend the deadline for payment of regulatory and licence fees, including property rates, to 31st December 2020.
The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) and Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture, the hotels urge, must intensify and perhaps offer incentives to drive domestic tourism.