About FRANKLY SPEAKING
Beach Access: An Opinion
Resident Tourism Policy
Paralysis by Analysis
Oil Refinery - Facts or Fiction?
An Oil Refinery for Dominica? - Part 2
A Place Called Home
Annual Awards Gala - DHTA
Dominica Cabinet - 2010
Thanks But No Thanks
The People's Business
Politics of Water
Message in a Bottle
Between the Lines
The 24/7/4/12/5 Campaign
The Answers Within
Foreign Direct Investment
CSME - Where now?
"En Brera" - No Choice
Closure of OECS, Ottawa
Does Size Matter
Growing DA's Agriculture
A University of Dominica?
Made In Dominica?
© Frank Watty
WHITE PAPER ON PROPOSALS FOR A RESIDENT TOURISM POLICY FOR DOMINICA - A REVIEW
August, 2006 - I welcome the opportunity extended by the Minister of Tourism to the Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences (DAAS) to comment of the subject draft policy proposal. These comments are not intended to be negative towards what I perceive to be an honest initiative to seek out at least one niche within which Dominica might design a progressive tourism strategy.
My difficulty at the outset is that the subject proposal appears to be advanced without an appropriate and more widely-based policy setting which illustrates how “residential tourism” so-called integrates within the overall drive to develop Dominica as a desirable visitor destination. What is the intended scale of this market? Is the proposed clientele additional to that addressed through the “resort tourism” programs now being advanced or can they both be combined?
The term “residential tourism” is perhaps a contradiction in terms and by the nature of the case throws up important inconsistencies that the policy paper must address. This is not a semantic problem, as the implication of a “residential” commitment requires the host country to make available an adequate of social services for the residents attracted. (No comment needs to be made at this stage as to the standard of such services and expectations of the residents, local and non-national. The implications are obvious.) It cannot be simply dismissed as irrelevant simply because the resident tourist is not a tax-paying citizen. This might logically lead to issues of “user fees” in lieu of conventional taxes, but that is for another time.
Though labouring the issue of a “residential” stay, the paper does not address either a required maximum or minimum stay-over, and in fact an applicant having once met the requirements and built or deposited funds accordingly, may never return to Dominica. Do any policy implications flow from such eventualities? I suggest, they do. In terms of financial, social or resource impacts, are there any differences between “residential tourists” so-called and longer stay or seasonal tourists occupying lease/rented facilities or share-ownerships within resort projects? How do the principles of qualification relate to persons who buy into a resort tourism complex (eg) owner-occupied villas? (Case 1). For example, would the value of “common areas”, apportioned by units, go towards meeting the $300,000 (US) value of land and buildings? These questions deserve answers.
The internationally accepted definition of “tourism” refers to travel away from home for a period exceeding twenty-four hours, and for purposes unrelated to work, military service, or to escape natural or man-made disasters. Typically, these are journeys for recreational, leisure, personal and spiritual upliftment including informal education, pilgrimages and sporting events. The proposed Case 2 residential tourist implying travel for professional reasons that may have a commercial aspect challenges the above definition. In fact, such persons may well compete against local persons and professionals in the same or similar line of work and raises issues of licensing, work permits, and such-like. It is not clear whether or not the list of professions/occupations is definitive or illustrative. If the former, under what criteria are some included and others excluded?
A rather important nuance to this issue of employment and the Class 2 clientele is that modern economic life has moved dramatically from having “work” tied to physical “place” Through the Internet, one can conduct work, occupational endeavours, business from anywhere on earth. The journalist can submit his script to his editor from the remotest village; the investor can manage his stock market portfolio, and the realtor his client without the necessity of being on site. In other words, there are real difficulties in framing policies related to the world of work.
So stripped of all the trimmings, the crux of this policy proposal is that any qualifying non-resident willing to invest in real estate to the value of $300,000 (US), or to lease/rent accommodation while maintaining a bank deposit of $100,000(US) will be entitled to a number of tax and duties exemptions:
I suspect that this initiative is directly related to the current interest in “resort tourism”, and that inter-relation needs to be made and addressed.
Throughout this paper, the specific proposed allowances apply only to Non-Nationals despite the fact that some Returning Nationals might be ready willing and able to meet all the criteria within or outside designated districts/zones and have in the past been investing to that extent and greater without equivalent exemptions as now suggested in this Paper. Carried to its logical conclusion, should all Caribbean jurisdictions have this or similar policies, a Dominican might go to Barbados or a Trinidadian come to Dominica as Non-National Resident Tourists and enjoy these benefits, which are denied them in their native land!!!!
I further suspect that policies such as these are being advanced in a desperate haste to mimic those already in place in other Caribbean jurisdictions without clear identification, examination and analysis of appropriateness related to true benefits and costs. In this “beggar-my-neighbour” approach to policy development, we should be wary of competing in a “race-to-the-bottom”.
The Paper realistically recognises that if the proposal or some variant of it is approved, this must be in the assurance of being able to validate some assumptions. In this exercise, the chicken must lay the egg. The anticipated projections should be enunciated first:
The above review does not conclude that government should abandon the initiative now being pursued. It does argue that the full dimension of the issue needs to be understood if even all facets cannot be resolved from day one. It begs the need for an intelligent and integrated approach to planning for the Tourism Sector whether or not a more economy-wide framework exists.
Longer stay-over tourists and repeat tourists are by their nature not “footloose” and are attracted to their destination by intrinsic qualities of the place. There is the need to identify what aspects of Dominican life and environment would make it attractive for that kind of clientele and at what cost (and inconvenience) would they be prepared to come and enjoy it as partial residents along with the local population. For years Dominica has not been in the mainstream of Caribbean tourism, preserving unique features and qualities now lost to many of our sister islands that have travelled the “beaten path”. We need to learn from their mistakes, while being sensitive to our own condition and aspirations.
I hope this contribution is helpful in charting the course forward.
Thanks again for the opportunity to contribute.
W.R.Franklin Watty, BSc (Econ), MA (Planning and Resources Development), MCIP, OPPI, RPP.
Principal, FRANK WATTY CONSULTANCIES INC., Economic, Land Use and Tourism Planners, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Adjunct Professor, School of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.