TALLINN – According to the NGO Estonian Tour Bus Association, tour bus operators have not been treated equally with spas, accommodation and catering establishments or other qualifiers in the distribution of tourism subsidies thus far.
At that, Urve Lindpere, a member of the board of the association, claims in a letter sent to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications that tour buses were completely excluded from the first round of support for tourism companies and that this support has largely gone to freight carriers and regular buses. She therefore finds that subsequent follow-up checks of beneficiaries could also be more effective in the future.
Thus, bus and coach operators are of the opinion that the thresholds for aid conditions should be reconsidered in order not to create unequal treatment of companies by giving some companies a competitive advantage.
"We understand very well that the amount available for distribution sets limits, but we ask officials to keep in mind that all companies affected by coronavirus must be treated equally. Like coronavirus patients who end up hospitalized, regardless of whether they are insured or not," Lindpere wrote in the statement.
She also pointed out that the payment of benefits should take into account the labor tax paid in 2019, as this was the last period in which work was done in the normal way.
"Employees have already been laid off since the end of 2020, and business owners are working for free themselves. When working in the ministry, it is probably difficult to understand that if there is no work, there is no money to pay salaries with, let alone taxes. However, we have declared and paid VAT, which for some reason is not taken into account. Our buses stand idle in the same way as spas, which were closed due to state restrictions," the board member of the NGO said.
At the same time, Lindpere considers it unfair to distribute the surplus funds to spas and accommodation and catering establishments, which have been open all summer.
"Domestic tourism is booming. The spas and restaurants are full of people despite the beautiful summer. Regular buses run all the time despite the restrictions. I in no way want to underestimate or disparage those in other fields, but the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications can still only see that hotels and spas have lost their income and regular buses have to be kept alive, even though the latter are already operating with the support of the state or local governments. Regular buses have not had to stop due to coronavirus," she said.
Thus, the representative of tour bus operators suggests that when distributing the balances of the last round of Enterprise Estonia (EAS) grants, it would be fair to give support to those who have received the least so far compared to lost turnover, rather than adding to all existing qualifiers according to the same rules.
In addition, Lindpere finds that in the new round, which is planned for younger companies, those tour bus operators who have essentially not received the state crisis aid so far should also be eligible.