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Premier makes case for discretionary powers for tourism minister

David Burt hosted a media briefing to touch on the 2022 Throne Speech. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bermuda is not competitive when it comes to hotel investment and needs to change approach, David Burt said yesterday.

He added at a post-Throne Speech press conference that the tourism minister needs greater discretion when it comes to dealing with developers.

The opposition One Bermuda Alliance had warned that such loosening of regulations could lead to “mess-ups”, but Mr Burt insisted that change was needed because Bermuda was falling behind tourism investment destinations in the Caribbean such as the Cayman Islands.

The Premier said: “We talk about tourism investment and to make sure that we are providing concessions which are competitive with other jurisdictions.

“The Cayman Islands has 25 years of tax concessions.

“The fact is... Bermuda is not competitive when it comes to attracting hotel investment; it is just not, those are the facts.

“Whether or not you speak to the Bermuda Tourism Authority, whether or not you speak to the Bermuda Hotel Association, whether or not you speak to international partners, they will tell you Bermuda is not competitive when it comes to attracting tourism investment dollars.

“We want to make sure that our tourism investment landscape is competitive.

“The tax revenue that comes from operating hotels far exceeds the concessions; that has been recognised in jurisdictions around the world.”

Move on Morgan’s Point promised by the Premier

Action is needed to deal with the failed development project at Morgan’s Point, David Burt said.

The Premier insisted that setting up a “corporate entity” to oversee its completion was the right way forward.

The changes announced in the Throne Speech will see the repeal of the Morgan’s Point Resort Act 2014.

Mr Burt said: “What we need to do is move forward” as he made it clear he thought the legislation was no longer of use.

The Premier added: “We need to tie those things up and take the laws that are no longer needed out ...”

Regarding the new entity, Mr Burt said: “Approvals have been given by Cabinet for the establishment of a new company, which will be modelled after the Bermuda Land Development Company to progress a plan to return as much value as possible to the Government of Bermuda while providing appropriate benefits to the people of Bermuda.

“And the most important benefit is getting as much of the funds expended back.”

Mr Burt again attacked the OBA over the guarantee for the controversial development.

He said: “The ongoing actions to address the problems resulting from the structure and inadequate resources put in place to support the guarantee given to procure and develop Morgan’s Point have been extensive.

“The taxpayers of this country, to date, have had to invest considerable resources — human and financial — and over $210 million in funding to date in this project due to the failure of this project and the calling of this guarantee.”

Regarding the long-awaited proposed deal on the $376 million Fairmont Southampton refurbishment, Mr Burt would again not give a timeline on when it could be completed.

“We are still working for the closing documentation.

“Nothing has changed from the previous aspects of what I have given.

“Certainly, global market conditions continue to be challenging, but we have the same confidence that I had that this project will open in 2024.

“It is unfortunate that the project has not been constructed now.

“When this project came to the Government in 2021, if we had been able to complete it in that time period, construction would have been happening.

“Since then, of course, we have had a war, we have had inflation, we have had different challenges, but we are working towards closing.

“I still have every confidence that this project will close.”

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Published November 10, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated November 10, 2022 at 7:54 am)

Premier makes case for discretionary powers for tourism minister

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