Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Tax package counterproductive to tourism sector, JHTA declares

Published:Saturday | March 18, 2017 | 3:00 AMPaul Clarke
Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association President Omar Robinson (right) and Adam Stewart, first vice-president, at a press conference at the association's office yesterday discussing the new tax measures.

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) has added its voice to growing opposition to aspects of the government's tax package, with its president Omar Robinson describing the plan as counterproductive to overall growth of the tourism sector.

Speaking at yesterday's press conference at the JHTA's Ardenne Road headquarters in St Andrew, Robinson noted that his organisation is against any move by the Government to pool money from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) into the Consolidated Fund.

"The government is now proposing to integrate the revenue flows from TEF into the Consolidated Fund, and while we have heard that it will not be used to meet budgetary requirements, it is contrary to the original agreement," the president noted.

He charged that this would impede the planned growth of the sector, which would be made worst with other proposed tax measures, such as the imposition of general consumption tax on group health insurance, the increase in property tax, and the special consumption tax increase on alcohol and fuel.

"We are very concerned within the industry and disappointed that as important stakeholders we were not part of any consultation with Government on the proposed changes to the fund, which is to come into effect April 1," Robinson said.

 

REMOVE OBSTRUCTION

 

Adam Stewart, first vice-president of the association, is calling on the Government to remove obstruction from the tourism sector to allow it to maximise its potential as a job creating, economic engine.

"We should be having discussions right now. If we are talking about bureaucracy restructuring, about removing hurdles and impediments to move faster, in any interpretation at the very least, all this does is put yet another hurdle in the way," Stewart said.

Several attempts to contact tourism minister Edmond Bartlett proved futile, as he was said to be in a meeting.

... Do not pay property tax - Robinson

Omar Robinson, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), said the increases in property, alcohol and fuel tax would make the Jamaican tourism product less attractive and place the country at a distinct disadvantage to its competitors.

He reasoned that if the government remained steadfast on levying the taxes on the industry, the country would stand to lose further ground to the likes of Mexico and the Dominican Republic, tourist destinations he said were seen as far cheaper.

"We must take these things into consideration if we are serious about growing tourism, which has the potential to boost the economy but we must know its value," Robinson warned at a press conference yesterday at JHTA's St Andrew office.

Some hotels, he stated, were being asked to pay upwards of 980 per cent increases in property tax.

"I am appealing to all our members, do not pay this tax until we can have some consultation. We want them to at least come and talk to us how they are justifying this increase," Robinson declared.

Opposition spokesman on tourism Dr. Wykeham McNeill is expressing concern about the impact of the tax measures on the tourism industry.

He said the move betrayed commitments given, and would also damage the credibility of the Government, which must rely on partnerships to grow the economy.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com