A new tiered system at the Agriculture Industrial Development (AID) Bank will make it easier for members of Dominica’s tourism industry to finally access the $15 million loan facility instituted by government in 2016.
The loan facility, funded through Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Programme, was meant to improve the quality standards of the hospitality industry on island by offering hoteliers financing at a special interest rate of 3%. However, due to rigid protocols, only 30% of the $15 million loan facility has been used to date.
Through the new four-tiered system, criteria for accessing the loan will depend on the loan amounts being borrowed. For loans up to $20,000, only a secure method of payment is required. For loans between $20,000 and $40,000, a guarantor and a secure payment method is required. For loans between $40,000 and $70,000, a bill of sale is also needed in addition to the aforementioned; and for loans between $70,000 and $2.5 million, tangible security must be provided as well as the other required documents.
The change to the borrowing structure comes after heavy lobbying by the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Authority (DHTA), which expressed concerns about the inability of members to access the necessary funding.
Executive Vice President of the DHTA, Kevin A. Francis believes the new gain more traction.
“There are different members wanting different things. Some people may need $2.5 million, but other smaller stakeholders may just need $50,000 or $100,000. Holding each stakeholder to the same requirement was definitely a hard sell”.
In-fact, following the passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017, AID Bank had reduced the interest rate for financing from 3% to 2% in the hopes of making the loans more accessible to hoteliers, however, even with the reduction in the rate, few were able to access funds.
In addition to restructuring the requirements for specific loan categories, AID Bank has also expanded the list of businesses eligible to apply for loans. The expanded list allows for all businesses in the tourism and renewable energy sectors.
“By introducing the tiered system and expanding the list, AID Bank has lowered the barriers to entry allowing for people, who do not have multimillion-dollar hotels and who are working in the industry, whether as a dive operator, tour operator, or even a tour guide, to access funding,” Francis said.
With the DHTA entering its 50th year of existence, Francis is hopeful that the improvements made by AID Bank will help to resuscitate the industry by affording members the means necessary to improve their operations. Following the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria, many of DHTAs members were displaced, leading to a 50% decline in membership.
“Right now, we are in a situation where the tourism players need to be back in the industry. There is a prevailing lack of confidence in the industry and with the new flexibility in the loan, the DHTA can push for a more resilient system and grow its membership. While Grant funding is the preferred option, we need to mindful of the benefits that a low-interest facility like this can achieve. We encourage all stakeholders who are able to access the facility take advantage of these great terms”.
Though changes have been made as it relates to accessing funding from the special loan facility the purpose for which the loan facility is made available remains the same. Loans can only be sought from AID Bank to upgrade existing properties, not to satisfy existing debts.