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Throne Speech pledge on discretion over tourism relief gets mixed reaction

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Cole Simons, the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance leader (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Plans to give the tourism minister greater powers of discretion over relief for developers of hotels, restaurants and attractions could lead to “mess-ups”, the One Bermuda Alliance has insisted.

Cole Simons, the OBA leader, warned against the move after it was announced in the Throne Speech yesterday.

The Government’s legislative agenda for the next year, which was read out by Tom Oppenheim, the Deputy Governor, called for reform of how the tourism industry was handled.

The Throne Speech stated: “The Government’s role is to provide the legislation that will support a tourism recovery and as such, in this session the legislature will take under consideration amendments to the Tourism Investment Act 2017 to permit the Government greater discretion in the grant of relief under the act to developers and those investing in attractions, restaurants and hotels.”

At a press conference, Mr Simons said this was the wrong direction to take, adding: “Bermuda desperately needs to revitalise its lagging tourism product. Greater discretion for politicians is what has messed up tourism.

“The worrying thing is now since the PLP came in power and a former tourism minister said he was ripping out the engine … he certainly did that, but now what are we left with?”

The convening of Parliament. The Throne Speech is read by Tom Oppenheim, the Deputy Governor. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

However, Stephen Todd, of the Bermuda Hotel Association, welcomed the Government’s stance.

He told The Royal Gazette: “I would see it as a positive move. I would hope it would attract more long-term investment.”

The Throne Speech, written by the Government, also raised the issue of the Morgan’s Point development guarantee.

The speech said: “The complex web of affairs at the site has occupied a team of advisers for the last two years as the Government attempts to realise a return on the costly guarantee called owing to the project’s failure.

“To that end, the Morgan’s Point Resort Act 2014 will be formally repealed and a new Act of the legislature tabled to create a corporate entity, comprised of qualified directors, to oversee and direct the completion of the project.”

The PLP blames the previous OBA Government for the financial situation at Morgan’s Point.

Morgan's Point.

However, Mr Simons declined to apologise for the party’s handling of the development when it was in power between 2012-2017, suggesting that Ewart Brown, a former PLP premier, was to blame.

Mr Simons said: “Get the history — we thank Dr Brown for the challenge that we found ourselves in. Did we make the right moves? We made the best moves with the hand that we were dealt.”

David Burt, the Premier, said last month that government interest and guarantee management costs are projected to reach $133 million — $5 million more than originally budgeted — blaming the increase on the failed Morgan’s Point project.

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Published November 05, 2022 at 8:09 am (Updated November 05, 2022 at 8:42 am)

Throne Speech pledge on discretion over tourism relief gets mixed reaction

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