SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- A $5 tourist tax will take effect Nov. 1 in the Dominican Republic for visitors arriving by air. The tax, which government officials described as temporary, will be rolled into the price of the airline ticket.

Meanwhile, the $10 tourist visa fee, currently collected from air and cruise visitors upon arrival, continues in effect and will remain separate from the $5 tax, although an electronic version of the visa will be introduced on Nov. 1 to help streamline the arrival process.

In addition, a $20 departure tax, which has been collected from visitors departing by air for more than 20 years, remains unchanged.

Felix Jimenez, minister of tourism, said that the revenue from the $5 tax will be used to shore up the destinations infrastructure and, in particular, its roads, highways, signage, water treatment systems, sanitary landfills and beach regeneration programs in Puerto Plata, Cabarete, Juan Dolio, Boca Chica and Barahona.

The future of tourism is extremely important to the Dominican Republic, he said. Our government is dedicated to improving tourist areas and resources, such as new rest rooms along the coastal areas and new traffic signals on the highways.

He also said that the new tax will allow the Dominican Republic to compete with Mexico, Jamaica and other Caribbean destinations that already have many of these facilities in place.

The minister, who recently concluded a series of sales meetings with U.S. tour operators and agents, said the tax measure was one issue of many that was discussed.

We explained the reasoning behind the tax to our travel partners, and said they should include the new $5 charge in the air ticket or package price, he said.

The tax originally was scheduled to take effect this month but was delayed until November because we wanted to give the tour operators enough time to inform their clients, Jimenez said.

The government estimated that the new tax would generate close to $22 million a year in revenue on the basis of arrival figures of 4 million a year.

Air arrivals in the Dominican Republic in 2004 topped 3.5 million; from January through July of this year, the numbers increased 7.75%, and Jimenez predicted a 10% overall increase by years end.

Meanwhile, visitors, tour operators and agents soon will be able to purchase, pay for and print out the new electronic version of the $10 tourist visa on the Internet prior to arrival in the Dominican Republic.

Visitors will then hand the form to the customs and immigration agent at the airport or cruise pier, Jimenez said, noting that the new procedure will drastically reduce the amount of time spent in the airport or at the piers when several hundred passengers have to be processed at the same time.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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