Tourism minister defends increased tourist tax

KINGSTON, Jamaica: 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 said 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.

“These new markets are long haul destinations and we must look at the aviation 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,” said Bartlett.

The tourism minister said the anticipated change in aviation ownership has forced Jamaica to ensure that the country is first in line to sign airlift agreements. He noted that these agreements require significant levels of funding, which will come from the increase in the head tax.

Bartlett said Jamaica is not the only country seeking additional funding to market their destination. For example, the United Kingdom is hoping to raise £100 million (US$164.5 million), and 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 programs which will benefit the industry,” he said.

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

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