Dodwell: Tourism Authority aims to quickly become self-funded body
The new Tourism Authority could be self-funding within two years, saving Government millions of dollars.
The organisation, which should be up and running by next March, will take over the management of the industry from Government's Department of Tourism in order to take politics out of the sector and put it in the hands of independent experts.
Critics have argued that Government will still be able to influence the authority if it controls funding. Government spends around $30 million of its budget on the Tourism Ministry each year.
But speaking at the World Travel Market conference in London, Mr Dodwell said he hoped the entity will be self funding within two years, freeing up millions of taxpayer dollars.
He pointed out that taxes currently paid to Government by hoteliers will be channelled to the authority, which could eventually become “an asset-holder” in tourism products by investing cash into new enterprises.
“We're going to be partially funded by the Government in the first year or two because it's an organisation you can't expect to do anything but,” Mr Dodwell said.
“Then we'll be partially funded by a separate tax — a Tourism Authority tax on hotel occupancy.
“But my goal is to self fund within two years. We want to be completely out of Government, and the Minister of Finance also is on-board with that — he'd love not to find tourism anymore.
“We're looking at ways — creative ways to be able to raise funding. For example, the entity will be able to borrow money, lend money, invest, and I see the day when the authority will be an asset holder of certain entities in Bermuda.”
Mr Dodwell added that the authority could invest in tourism subsidiary businesses such as golf courses or transport products, but ruled out hotels.
“One of the things we're going to try to do is stand up young product suppliers with tourism ideas that may not have the capital,” he said.
“They may have their own capital, they may have bank capital and we want to be the entity that gets them to the next level — and then gets out of the way.
He said the idea of the authority borrowing, lending and investing was “unique” and that Bermuda was leading the way in how jurisdictions manage the sector.
He also praised Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell for being “very bold and courageous” for relinquishing control of the industry and putting it in the hands of an independent authority
“It's creating a greater private sector involvement and it eliminates political interference,” he said.
“I think it is different and I have had a few phone calls from other Caribbean countries that want to see the legislation and see how it works.
“I've been told it's leading legislation but as destinations become more competitive it won't be leading for very long. Somebody will look at us just as we looked at other jurisdictions to see what the strengths were and what the weaknesses were. I believe it is a first time approach to the depth that we're taking it to get people involved.”