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Region mulls tax on airline tickets

Published:Thursday | January 14, 2010 | 1:00 AM

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

THE CARIBBEAN Hotel and Tourist Association (CHTA) is urging the Caribbean Tourism Organisation to revisit the recommendation of a tax on airline passenger tickets to the region.

The call was made at the closing session of the Caribbean Marketplace conference which was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from January 10-12.

CHTA is proposing US$10 per incoming passengers. "This could be effectively split to enable individual governments to use US$5 of each tax for its own destination marketing, while allocating the other US$5 to a sustainable marketing fund for the region," president of the CHTA, Enrique de Marchena, told journalists on Tuesday.

Similar calls for a regional marketing campaign have been made in the past, but have not succeeded in getting off the ground.

The recommendation comes against the background that the region's preliminary stopover arrival figures show a seven per cent decrease over 2008. With the decrease in arrivals comes the reduction in the coffers, says de Marchena.

Trickle-down effect

With the region being largely dependent on tourism, the CHTA president is convinced there will be a trickle-down effect on the rest of the economy, including agriculture, telecommunications, transportation, commerce and the banking sector.

Already, Jamaica's Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett one of only three tourism ministers attending the conference, has said he supported the need for a one-Caribbean marketing initiative and was willing to examine the proposal in light of the current realities and the need for greater marketing emphasis.

"An additional five dollars in taxes on passengers coming in would not necessarily affect us," he asserted.

Jamaica already collects US$10 from its incoming passengers, which goes directly into the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to boost marketing efforts, upgrading the product, among other things. In approximately four years, Jamaica has earned some US$6 billion from the fund.