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Regional governments hurting tourism with increase taxation
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June 10 Bridgetown Barbados: Despite cruise ship and stayover visitor arrivals have increased in the Caribbean over the past year, and despite increasing oil prices, devastating hurricanes and the financial troubles of the regions air carriers, recent developments at the governmental level have forced some senior officials in the tourism sector to believe that their success has been working against them.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), it was noted that governments were increasing the levels of taxation in the sector and seeking ways to limit spending, despite the fact that the sector was doing well.

 BHTA executive vice-president Sue Springer stated that Jamaica had recently increased its General Service Tax and had cut all the concessions it once offered to the tourism sector without consulting the industrys stakeholders. She added that the St. Lucia government was planning to increase taxation on all-inclusive properties, and in Barbados the Minister of Finance had stated that Government would have to place a cap on funding that could be used to support the marketing of the island. According to her, the last four years in the industry had been a period of recovery in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 and other major global events, and this is neither the time to retract from marketing nor to withdraw assistance and concessions to tourism, especially since our competitors elsewhere in the world are now recovering.

President Jon Martineau noted that tourism presently accounted for some 14.8 per cent of the Caribbeans gross domestic product (GDP) and this figure was likely to increase to 16.5 per cent by 2014, and he was concerned that many of the increased taxes were going towards land-based tourism and not cruise tourism.

Figures for visitor arrivals in the Caribbean on the whole for 2004 showed that some 20.5 million visitors arrived by air, while 20 million cruise ship passengers passed through the region over the past year, an increase of seven per cent and ten per cent respectively. Springer said that so far this year for Barbados long-stay visitor arrivals for the first quarter of 2005 had increased by 1.9 per cent when compared to the same period in 2004, but cruise ship arrivals had declined by 16.8 per cent.

This was attributed in part to the increased oil prices and the fact that most of the ships visiting Barbados started their journeys in Puerto Rico, and to sail as far south as Barbados and still complete their itinerary within a week they would have to travel faster and therefore use a lot more fuel. On a more positive note, airlift had increased and discussions were taking place with a number of airlines including Delta out of the United States and the European airline Martin Air. 

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