Tour boat owners say more has to be done to keep them afloat
Extra support to boost the struggling tour boat industry is being considered by the Government, it was revealed yesterday.
Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, said the Bermuda Tour Boat Association had approached the Government for help to tackle the major losses in income caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Scott added industry requests had included payroll tax breaks, a cut to liquor licensing fees and lower boat licensing fees, as well as permission to operate with more passengers.
He said that Government had already halved the cost of liquor licences and, although licences had increased by five per cent for most boats, tour boat licence fees were unchanged.
Mr Scott added that the Government revised guidelines for commercial vessels earlier this month so capacities could be increased and people in the tour boat and charter industry were eligible for Covid-19 unemployment benefits.
He said: “Additionally, they requested that current fuel rebate allowance for May through October be extended for the entire year …”
Tour boat owners also want a moratorium on overseas charter boats to be introduced.
Mr Scott said: “These two items are still under consideration since the ministry prioritised the request to deal with the most time sensitive matters.”
But one tour boat operator said that more had to be done to mitigate the heavy losses in the sector.
He explained that larger boats often required more than ten crew members, which made it impossible to operate tours under Covid-19 restrictions.
He added: “If you have more than ten crew, you can’t even leave the dock.”
The operator said industry members had paid for liquor licences, boat licences and other Government fees, but were still unable to operate.
He said: “We have lost a year, and we haven’t gotten a single penny back. We are stuck.”
The operator added that many tour boat operators had hoped to earn extra cash over the SailGP international sailing race.
But he said increased restrictions causes by the spike in Covid-19 cases earlier this year had cost the sector thousands of dollars in bookings.
He argued that boat charters could operate safely with the right regulations and that, if properly managed, tours would at least as safe as indoor dining at restaurants.
The operator also suggested duty relief for local charter boats, similar to the breaks offered to other hard-hit industries to encourage investment and improvements.