NEW YORK -- The trade is reacting with dismay at Jamaica's decision
to raise its airport departure tax by a whopping 24%.
As reported, Jamaica will raise its airport departure tax from
$21 to $26, effective June 1. The tax hike is part of the
government's new budget that included a 31% jump in gas prices and
other tax increases to pay off debt.
The increase in gas prices was partially rolled back on April 27
after it sparked three days of deadly protests that shook the
tourism industry. "We believe that Jamaica's action, and other tax
increases, while apparently revenue producing, are actually revenue
dilutive," said Jeffrey Tolkin, co-president of Travel Impressions
in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Tolkin said that Mexico and the Caribbean "have become
non-competitive with domestic destinations" partly because of
mounting tourist taxes that hurt business. Jamaica raised its
airport departure tax from $15 to $21 effective June, 1998.
"We are clearly not in agreement with this plan. We have had
discussions about it with the government," said Allen Chastanet,
vice president of marketing and sales for Air Jamaica, which
operates 160 flights a week to the island, or 54% of traffic. "We
are in a major expansion mode in Jamaica. A hike in the airport
departure tax at this point would seriously impact us," said
A spokeswoman for the Jamaica Tourist Board said the
organization's regional offices have begun advising tour operators
and travel agents of the tax increase.
Meanwhile, in the three months before the April unrest, a total
of 331,007 tourists -- 221,400 of them from the U.S. -- visited
Jamaica, a rise of 6.7% compared to the same period in 1998, the
tourist board reported. During the same period, Jamaica recorded
183 cruise ship calls, a 28.9% increase, resulting in 251,530
cruise passengers, a 20% jump, the tourist board said.