EVELYN SMITH, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), has said more taxation will make Jamaica uncompetitive in the tourism market and could push potential visitors away to more affordable destinations.
"Any proposal from anyone to increase the cost burden on our industry, and remove critical incentives that encourage the entry of large and small players to the sector, must be strongly resisted," Smith said, while addressing last Thursday's western launch of the Golden Jubilee Youth Programme at Ruseas High School in Hanover.
The Private Sector Working Group has recommended an increase in the general consumption tax on tourism services and for the removal of tourism-industry incentives as part of the Government's effort to reform Jamaica's tax system.
The suggestion has not found favour with the JHTA, which is using every medium possible to lobby against the proposal, which Smith believes would have devastating effect on Jamaica's largest income-generating sector.
"We believe that no industry in Jamaica matches tourism in terms of financial gains to ordinary Jamaicans," said Smith.
"Our country is at a crossroads where we are experiencing serious financial challenges that we must all confront. We must now decide if we must borrow and tax our way out of these challenges."
Citing factors such as little or no growth in stopover arrivals, vacations becoming more expensive from fees and taxes, devaluation of the Jamaican dollar and vulnerability of tourism micro, small and medium enterprises, Smith said all voices should join in rejecting the proposal.
"There's a constant cry from our leaders for jobs, jobs, jobs, but our focus should be on job creation ... business creation and expansion."