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Timely Gov’t Moratoria To Salvage Sector

The effects of covid-19 on the hospitality and catering industry are very glaring as the spread of the disease has greatly limited movements of persons across the world.

I t was business as usual in hotels and restaurants before March 6, 2020 when the deadly pandemic raised its ugly head in Cameroon with the detection of the first coronavirus case. Though activities continued unperturbed after that, the number of confirmed cases kept soaring in Cameroon prompting the government to take restrictive measures on March 17 to bar the way to the spread of the virus. These measures which included amongst others the closer of land, air and maritime borders, cancellation of gatherings of over 50 people, closure of pubs and restaurants after 6pm had a severe blow on the sector. After consultations with economic operators including the national hotel operators syndicate, the government softened these measures on April 30 and announced moratoria on certain fiscal obligations. To begin with, the 6pm limit for restaurants to be open was lifted giving more business time to operators. The easing of the measures according to the Prime Minister, Head of Government, Dr Joseph Dion Ngute, aimed at attenuating the effects of the COVID-19 on businesses. In fact, the latest study carried out by the Cameroon Employers Syndicate (GICAM) indicated that 92 per cent of enterprises (including hotels and catering) are facing the adverse effect of the pandemic outbreak. However, the opening of bars, restaurants and other leisure facilities after 6pm is subject to the strict respect of barrier measures notable the wearing of protective mask and social distancing. As far as hotels and the catering sector is concerned, the government announced the exemption from the Tourist Tax in hotels for the rest of the financial year 2020. The Tourist Tax according to the Finance Law ranges from FCFA 500 to FCFA 5000 per client and per night depending on the category of the lodging facility. This implies that the hotels will not pay this tax for the rest of the year beginning from March. This to an extent attenuates the severe effect of the covid-19 on the hotel business. The tax was introduced in the 2017 Finance Law and went effect from January 1, 2017 across the territory. Hotels may also benefit from other fiscal measures such as the cancellation of penalties for late payment of social security contributions due to the National Social Insurance Fund and suspension for three months of on-site inspections visit by the NSIF, amongst others.

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