BASSETERRE, St Kitts, CMC – Caribbean governments have brushed aside calls by hoteliers and other stakeholders that heavy taxes were contributing to the demise of the industry in the region.
A delegation from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) had sought an audience with the regional leaders during the four-day summit that ended here on Monday.
CHTA president Josef Forstmayr told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that tourism was not on the agenda of the summit despite the fact that three years ago CARICOM heads decided to make tourism a regular agenda item at all CARICOM meetings.
“We have heard that several heads of government at this meeting had called for reduction in travel restrictions. This is crucial if we are to return to the 1.5 million intra-Caribbean visitors that helped fill vacant rooms at our Caribbean hotels just a few years ago.”
But speaking at a news conference on Monday, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo described as “absolute nonsense” the claims by the hoteliers and other stakeholders that government was taxing the industry out of existence.
“Absolute nonsense. You do you think invest in the airports, you do you think invest in roads, in a 100 other things to support the industry. Who do you think produces the fiscal incentives that make tourism work in these countries?
“All they are fussing about is the taxes and sometimes they themselves do not look at their cost structure …when you look at how much a guest pays for a bottle of coke in mini bar in one of the hotels. It is extra ordinary high. They have to look at the cost structure of the industry without constantly to blame and go after the meagre tax that governments have from these places.
“If you know how many incentives you have to give for these things to be constructed, so it is pure nonsense, “Jagdeo said to applause from some of his colleagues who were present during the news conference.
CHTA, quoting statistics from the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), said that the number of intra-Caribbean visitors had declined to just 566,000 last year.
The lucrative intra-Caribbean market stayed predominantly in small indigenous hotels, owned by Caribbean nationals. The serious downturn of this market, due to the lack of an efficient and affordable intra-regional air service, has had a major economic impact on national economies and our small hotels, the hoteliers said.
They reminded governments that tourism sector ndirectly employs more than1.9 million people in the Caribbean and accounts for 12.8 per cent of the Caribbean’s economic activity, more than in any other region in the world. CMC/ 11
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