Wed | Apr 26, 2017

JHTA stands ground - Group to discuss taxes, TEF with Shaw, Bartlett today

Published:Monday | March 20, 2017 | 3:00 AMJanet Silvera
Robinson

Excessive property taxes, meddling with the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and elevated health insurance are among the burning issues the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) will discuss today with both the finance and tourism ministers.

The meeting comes days after the tourism body recommended that its members refrain from paying the property tax increases announced by Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw.

According to president of the JHTA, Omar Robinson, one small hotelier in Kingston has seen property taxes move from $594,000 to $6.4 million, while an operator in Port Antonio who was paying $92,000 annually is now expected to pay $895,000, at a time when occupancy levels are low and they have been struggling to remain sustainable.

"The industry is asking how these taxes were calculated," Robinson said.

Painting a dismal picture of 60 licences under which the industry operates, Robinson said each attracts respective increases.

The JHTA president said his members are still objecting to plans to centralise the TEF.

"What needs to be made clear is that the TEF has already been giving 50 per cent of its earnings to fund the overseas marketing and advertising expenses of the Jamaica Tourist Board, which was meant to come from the Consolidated Fund," he argued.

In addition, he said other projects have been undertaken such as cleaning verges and gullies across the island, installing lights, donating vehicles to the police and repairing defective vehicles to help the Jamaica Constabulary Force to be more effective.

"All of these are functions of central government and have been supported financially from the TEF. Tourism players have always given back to the development of their respective communities and the nation at large," he pointed out.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com