Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association President (CHTA) Josef Forstmayr opened the 16th Annual Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (CHTIC) in San Juan, Puerto Rico with a call for Caribbean governments to re-think tax policies with an aim to remove or reduce consumption taxes on hotels and tourists.
He also urged tax incentives to attract more investment and for effective public/private sector partnerships to stimulate investment and product development.
It is encouraging to note that the Caribbean has in fact seen record tourism arrivals in both 2010 and 2011.
“Today I would like to address one particular issue that I am extremely concerned about,” he said. “It is our governments' appetite for taxation of the tourism industry which continues to increase unabated.”
Forstmayr continued, “There is no question that tourism is an export industry. Unfortunately in the Caribbean, tourism is still not treated as an export by many of our member countries. We hear of new policies that tax not only the private sector, but also our visitors directly. These masquerade under such names as, 'airport improvement taxes', 'tourism enhancement fees' and by far the worst of all, the U.K.'s 'Airline Passenger Duty (APD).'”
He went on to say that the Caribbean governments must make a serious effort to review their taxation policies on the tourism industry.
“It is time now to remove or reduce all excessive consumption taxes on our visitors,” he said. “It is also time to re-think all policies which call for an increase of these consumption taxes. Our industry is based on competitive pricing. Our visitors will simply choose other destinations which provide better value.”
Furthermore, Forstmayr pledged tax incentives to attract the investment that is needed for the Caribbean to maintain its appeal and competitiveness as a world-class tourist region.
“We need effective public/private sector partnerships that will stimulate the investment and product development which are critical to the growth of tourism,” said Forstmayr. “The Caribbean tourism industry needs strong advocacy, and I am pleased to say that CHTA's 'Tourism is Key' advocacy campaign, launched two years ago continues its momentum. It is one of the most important initiatives that we have undertaken in our 50-year history. The program has now been launched in 11 Caribbean countries, with more planned for this year.”