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New tax for Jamaica holidays as congress passes Tourist Tax Hike Bill

  • 27-Jul-11 16:46
  • Jamaica
  • Caribbean News Digital

Those planning Jamaica holidays might soon have to double up the amount they pay in tourist tax as the Lower House of Parliament last week approved an new Tourist Tax Hike Bill for the enhancement of Jamaica's tourism offer.

New tax for Jamaica holidays as congress passes Tourist Tax Hike Bill

A new controversial bill has passed the Jamaican Congress and has been fully approved in the lower house of the Caribbean country's parliament this week.

The proposition for this new bill which had been heatedly debated by the government's officials will be imposed (if it passes the Upper House of Parliament) with the fundamental aim of increasing the enhancement of Jamaica holidays and the whole Jamaican tourism offer.

The new Tourist Tax Hike Bill is an ammendement to the Tourism Enhancement Act, 2004 and was piloted by Jamaican Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett. It passed the Lower House of Parliament last Tuesday, 19th July and is expected to be further debated at the next sitting in the Senate, due to take place on Friday this week.

If passed and approved in the Senate, the new bill will double the existing Tourism Enhancement fee of US$10 to US$20 and is expected to take effect in October this year.

During the intense debate, which lasted over an hour last Tuesday, Bartlett in explaining the rationale for the increase emphasised that the dynamics of tourism in the Jamaica holidays industry had changed tremendously and therefore required new and innovative marketing strategies in new areas to boost tourism and allow for growth.

He said the increased fees “would be dedicated solely to the marketing of Jamaica and airlift support, especially in new and emerging markets.”

Bartlett added that Jamaica recorded an 8.5 percent increase in land-based and cruise tourist arrivals for the second quarter ending in June, and that the increase was needed to sustain this tourism growth. He said the increase came despite a 3,000-seat reduction in airline capacity from “traditional markets” in the first six months of 2011.

Highly unpopular with many, the new fee hike is strongly opposed by several Jamaican tourism stakeholders who are worrried about the long-term effect this new fee will have among travellers when deciding whether to opt for holidays to Jamaica or look for cheaper alternatives. There is also concern over how this new fee increase will affect Jamaica hotels and resorts.

Last month, International Air Transport Association (IATA) official, Cyriel Kronenburg said this new tax incriease “will reduce the number of tourists coming to this already uncompetitive region.” In May this year, JHTA’s president, Wayne Cummings called the tax hike “excessive,” by claiming it “will affect travel to the Jamaica” and “sends a wrong signal to the airline market and to consumers.” Cummings also said that imposing a new fee increase just months after Jamaica successfully lobbied the United Kingdom against increasing its highly controversial air passenger duty, a blatantly “hypocritical” move.

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