Jamaica defends increased tourist tax

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday May 30, 2011 – Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has contended that the recent US$10 increase in the head tax paid by incoming airline passengers will facilitate bigger and better strategies to market destination Jamaica.

He said the extra money will go exclusively towards the marketing of Jamaica in new and emerging markets.

Noting that Jamaica will be moving to open new doors in countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, as well as Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey, Bartlett explained that Jamaica’s entry into those new markets will require US$2.5 million to US$3 million in start-up capital.

“These countries have become the new target for our marketing team and the funds which will come from the increase in the head tax will allow for better marketing of the destination. While there will be an increase of US$10 in Jamaica’s case, we should bear in mind that in St. Lucia there was a US$35 hike which means we took several issues  into consideration before approving the new rate,” he said.

“These new markets are long haul destinations and we must look at the avaition landscape which has changed dramatically since the economic recession gripped the world two years ago. In addition, there is the possibility that two or three companies may soon own all the airlines, which means that they will be careful in selecting destinations to which their aircraft travel.”

Minister Bartlett said the anticipated change in avaition ownership has forced Jamaica to ensure that the country is first in line to sign airlift agreements. 

These agreements, he said, require significant levels of funding which will come from the increase in the head tax.

The Tourism Minister emphasised that Jamaica is not the only country seeking additional funding to market their destination as, for the first time ever, the United Kingdom is hoping to raise £100 million (US$164.5 million), while the United States will be raising US$500 million in two years to market their respective destinations. 

“With the additional US$20 million which will be raised from the (head tax) increase, Jamaica will be in a position to put into effect far reaching agreements and promotional programmes which will benefit the industry,” he said.

The Minister underscored that the funds will be “firewalled” to ensure that they cannot be used for anything else but the marketing of Jamaica.

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