'No tourist fall-off' - State minister says arrivals healthy despite travel tax
State Minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Fayval Williams is insisting that the 75 per cent increase in travel taxes tourists were slapped with last year has had no negative impact on the tourism industry.
Finance Minister Audley Shaw had announced the measure which saw departure taxes moving from US$20 to US$35 to sure up Government revenue as the Andrew Holness administration implemented its revised election promise to move the personal income tax threshold to $1.5 million.
The move was denounced by the People's National Party with opposition spokesman on finance Dr Peter Phillips declaring that "this move has reduced Jamaica's competitiveness as a destination".
"It has the distinct possibility of impairing Jamaica's ability to attract airlift, particularly from low-cost carriers," Phillips went on to argue.
But Williams said on Monday that consistent with her expectations, the country continues to perform and meet its targets for tourism.
She argued that the due diligence done by the finance ministry ensured that the move to increase the departure tax would not cripple the tourism industry.
"Before we instituted it, we looked at our competitor countries to see what level travel taxes they have, and we took into consideration that the travel tax has not been changed in a number of years. So we did do work before we implemented it," Williams told The Gleaner as she defended the increase.
"It was instituted quite smoothly, and there was no pushback or backlash from the industry, and, that is something we are pleased with," Williams added.
The state minister pointed out that tourist arrival to Jamaica continues to be robust despite the additional taxes.
A record 60,886 stopover visitors flooded Jamaica between December 22 and 28 last year.