Jamaica to impose 'tourism-enhancement' fee

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MIAMI -- Jamaican authorities will impose new tourism-enhancement fees on all arriving air and cruise passengers, beginning May 1.

The fees -- $10 per air traveler and $2 per cruise passenger -- will be levied in addition to the countrys existing $16 departure tax, and will be rolled into air and cruise ticket prices.

Paul Pennicook, the Jamaica Tourist Boards director of tourism, said the fees will raise capital for the maintenance and improvement of tourism infrastructure.

Unlike departure tax monies, which end up in general government revenue, the tourism-enhancement fees will be deposited in a tourism-specific account to be administered by a designated task force or board.

Its an attempt to ensure sustainability, Pennicook said.

One of the first projects likely to be funded will be the beautification of major resort areas.

Addressing complaints about an additional financial burden on the industry, Tourism Minister Aloun N'dombet Assamba said that the government is not taxing the hoteliers, attraction owners or the Jamaican people. On the other hand, private tourism concerns will not receive grants or subsidies from the new fund.

Asked if the additional fees put Jamaica at a competitive disadvantage compared with other Caribbean destinations, Pennicook said the enhancement fee and departure tax combined still add up to less than other islands departure taxes.

At 1,000 Jamaican dollars, currently $16 U.S., our departure tax is actually one of the lower ones in the region, he said. In theory, all weve done is take the tax back to what it was before the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar, when 1,000 [Jamaican dollars] was worth about $25 U.S.

On the down side, Pennicook said some tour operators may have to cover the fee for clients who have already paid for vacations starting after May 1.

Air Jamaica said it would begin adding the tourism tax to its fares on April 26.

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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