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Jamaica Revises Proposed Tax on Tourism Sector

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Following the recently concluded Caribbean Tourism Summit in Montego Bay, the Jamaican government announced that it had revised its proposed tax on the tourism sector.

Under the tax plan announced on May 24th by Finance Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips, hotels would be charged an accommodation tax from US$2 to US$12, depending on the number of rooms they had, while starting August 1, arriving passengers would be charged US$20.

The proposed tax would bring in J$6 billion from the tourism sector to help close the J$19 billion shortfall in the 2012/13 budget.

Tourism stakeholders were outraged over the announcement.

Former tourism minister, now opposition spokesman on tourism, Ed Bartlett, called the move “ill-advised and punitive” and cautioned that it would “damage the only sector in Jamaica that has shown consistent growth over the last five years.”

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) also expressed its disappointment at the government’s decision and through a technical working group, put forward alternatives, including an environmental tax on cruise ship passengers.

The revised tax was reduced to US1, for accommodations with less than 51 rooms; US$2 for 51-200 rooms and US$4 for those with 101 rooms or more. Accommodations with more than 200 rooms saw the biggest cut from US$12.

Other Tourism Tax Woes

Under the recently passed Airport Administration Charge Act 2012, passengers traveling to the Caribbean island of Antigua will see an additional US93.75 (up from US$63.75) added to their airfare.

Another issue discussed at the CTO Summit was the Air Passenger Duty (APD), a tax assessed by the British government on travelers to the region. The APD, which has been in place since 1994, taxes countries in groups based on the distance of their capital cities from London. The tax for travelers to the Caribbean rose last November from £50 (US$78.54) to £75 (US$117.92), and again in April to £81 or US$127.20.

Caribbean tourism officials argue that the increase puts the region at a competitive disadvantage. Their arguments, however, have not found traction with the British government.

REDjet’s in the Red; Ends Service

REDjet

REDjet, the Caribbean’s first budget airline, ended all flights last Friday, March 17th. The company announced that it would offer refunds to its passengers. It cited budget problems as the reason for shutting down.

REDjet

REDjet

Ian Burns, REDjet’s CEO, said he hoped the airline would be able to receive subsidies from Caribbean governments and resume service. The budget airline, which began operating in May, was based in Barbados. It offer flights as low as served Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Guyana, and Antigua.

New Ferry Service for the Eastern Caribbean

Photo from the Internet

I used to feel a little envious when my aunt would talk about the island hopping she and her friends did when they were at the University of the West Indies. Back then, the best way to travel among the islands was by boat. The trip she talks about often took place the year she graduated. She and some of her class mates decided to accompany those from different islands who were returning home. Whenever they reached the island home of a member of their group, they disembarked and did that until they arrived at their last stop, Port of Spain in Trinidad & Tobago.

My aunt never revealed what they did while they were on board or after they disembarked, but from the smile on her face when she tells the story now, I know they had a blast.

Unfortunately, that service ceased operating in the 70s.

Now, a new service, announced by Trinidad & Tobago’s Transport Minister Devant Maharaj is set to launch later this year and will be based in Port of Spain. It will be operated by a Barbadian consortium, Fast Ferry Ltd.

The  first phase would connect the islands of Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados. Ferries would leave Port of Spain, at 6:00 a.m. and arrive in Bridgetown, Barbados, its last stop, at 6:00 p.m.

The proposed average price of tickets for Trinidadian citizens would be between US$25 and US$35, however, 100,000 seats, priced at $10, would be available annually.

The company has announced that additional routes will be added when they achieve commercial viability.

Photo from the Internet

The service will join already established ferry services that make travel within the US and British Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas possible. There is no ferry service connecting the larger islands – Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

 

 

Caribbean Airlines Will Need to Rebuild Customer Trust

Though it is said that air travel is statistically safer than traveling our congested highways, it’s the high probability for loss that gets me. Thankfully, all 162 passengers on board Caribbean Airlines are alive but when I heard the news of the crash late Saturday night, I felt a sense of unease.

As someone who travels frequently, this type of news always shakes me even though my attitude is, if it’s going to happen, there’s little I can do. I think of the time a few years ago in Spain when news reached us of a crash just as we were about to board a flight. We were delayed for several tense hours but when our flight was ready, we went with it. I also recall the American Airlines crashed near Queens in 2001. I tried not to see any of the photos as I was flying out the following morning. And finally, I think of a friend who was lost on Air France 447. The relief I’ve felt that no lives lost were almost overshadowed by these other thoughts.

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