PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS–Increasing fees and taxes on air travel imposed by Caribbean Governments have Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) “deeply concerned,” said Frank Comito, Association Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director-General.
“When you increase taxes and fees, you impact demand,” Comito told the press on Wednesday at Caribbean Marketplace 2017, the largest gathering of the region’s tourism destinations and accommodations. The CHTA organised event continues today, Thursday, in Atlantis, Paradise Island, in the Bahamas.
Caribbean airport and government taxes, included in airline tickets, are among the highest in the world. Comito warned if the trend of governments imposing higher taxes and fees goes unchecked, their destinations and the region as a whole will suffer.
“If we keep doing that [increasing fees and taxes –Ed.], we will squelch demand” for the Caribbean, he emphasized, adding that whatsoever governments want to do in this area will greatly impact the tourism sector.
St. Maarten is among the top tourism destinations considering tagging on an additional fee/tax to airline tickets. The National Alliance-led coalition government has proposed a NAf. 10/US $5 departure fee per person exiting Princess Juliana International Airport and Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facilities.
Both ports of entry/departure have laid arguments to Government outlining that they cannot levy such a tax. Finance Minister Richard Gibson Sr., however, believes differently. He said at last week’s Council of Ministers’ Press Briefing they will have to pay it themselves, seek means to generate it, or deduct it from what they are already receiving in fees the airport and port are already charging users.
To get the implementation of this departure tax, Government has to draft and table legislation in Parliament.
Gibson Sr. had announced the pending departure fee during the 2017 Budget debate in December 2016. At that time, he had said the tax will affect all passengers leaving the country, except cruise ship passengers, and had anticipated that it would raise some NAf. 9 million annually for Government’s coffers.
“This departure fee is being designed to exclude cruise ship passengers, because of the impact it will have on the cruise lines, … but for boats leaving from Pelican going to Anguilla or St. Barths, or from Great Bay, the amount of NAf. 10 is small enough compared to what the region does … that we believe that the economy can absorb that without much problem,” Gibson had told Parliament.
The airport already has a “passenger accommodation fee” that includes the airport departure fee for international and domestic destinations, as well as transfers and the Airport Improvement Fee (AIF). The fee stands at US $36 per passenger for international flights, based on the airport’s annual report.
The airport keeps all of the money generated by this fee. The Port charges a US $7 fee dubbed a “head tax.”