Hotelier Calls for Tax Relief for Local Businesses

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Passion Hotel in Gbarnga City.

The Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is having an adverse effect on Liberian hotel businesses due to lockdown and travel restriction measures imposed by the Government in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

Currently, the country has experienced more than 700 confirmed infection cases and the Government still struggled to contain the spread of the virus. Strategy by the Government to intensify the COVID-19 restriction will make businesses continue to lose more customers and revenues; which will also have a negative impact on revenue generation by the very government in terms of tax collection.

Passion Hotel, a local business situated in Bong County, and the rest of the businesses are no exception to the loss of revenues as the result of the virus outbreak.

Tornolah Varpilah, owner of Passion Hotel.

Speaking to the Daily Observer recently in Gbarnga, Tornola Varpilah, owner of Passion Hotel said there is a drastic decline in incomes because people are no longer traveling.

“The guest occupancy has dropped completely so the hotel is not operating like before. There is a big loss in revenue. In fact, the management has laid down some staff,” he said.

Mr. Varpilah who is former Minister of Transport during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the hotel is a premium for international guests, government officials, and NGO workers who travel out.

According to him, due to the lack of decent hotel in Gbarnga, he was moved to construct ‘Passion’ to address the accommodation need of people.

“This hotel was established seven years ago and had been very serviceable to a lot of guests in the county. When I worked for NGO those days, I noticed the need for a decent hotel to host guests. Ambassadors, top government officials, and foreign nationals could not just find a place to stay in this county. This is how the whole concept of Passion came about to make the city of Gbarnga attractive to travelers,” said Varpilah

Varpilah said in the past many travelers preferred being lodged in Ganta City, Nimba County, but now Passion is the demand of the people.

“The hotel is now meeting the demand of high-level guests because it satisfies the customers,” he added.

Amid the Coronavirus, the Government has come with stimulus for Liberian businesses, mainly those businesses that are considered as ‘petty businesses’.

Varpilah stated that this is time the Government should think about investment in domestic agriculture production to enable the country to mitigate the effect of the virus on its food system, adding that the US$25 million should have been used for this purpose.

According to him, despite the impact of the virus, Liberian businesses are still paying huge taxes to the government.

“The Government itself is struggling to survive economically. But in such a crisis there should be a tax cut for local businesses,” he told the Daily Observer in a mobile telephone conversation.

Meanwhile, Varpilah said during the early part of the virus outbreak, they observed that many residents in Gbarnga were finding it difficult to access cash due to restriction in movement. He said management was therefore able to introduce services to address the financial need of the people.

With the reopening of the Robert International Airport during the COVID-19, Passion Hotel and other hotels within the borders of Liberia may recover from the effect of the coronavirus. On June 29, the Government of Liberia reopened the airport, after several months of closure.

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