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BTIA Fears New Tax Measures will Harm Tourism Industry

Two days ago the presentation of the National Budget for the fiscal year 2017/2018 noted an increase in departure tax for non-Belizeans and a ten percent contribution from Statutory Boards as part of the Government’s efforts in raising eighty million dollars.  According to Prime Minister, Dean Barrow consultations were done with the Belize Tourism Board but it seems the BTB’s counterpart for the private sector was excluded from those consultations.  The Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) has issued a release expressing their belief that an in-depth study of the impacts and effects of these revenue measures, along with consultations with industry stakeholders, should have been held prior to GOB’s proposal to effect these measures. The position paper from the BTIA notes, quote, “GOB’s proposal to increase Departure Tax by increasing the Conservation (PACT) Fee from $7.50 to $40.00 is merely focused on directing revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This action does not address the need for increased revenue for the management of our national parks and protected areas.”  End of quote.  As it relates to the increase of departure tax the BTIA believes that Belize is already a tourist destination with high costs in comparison to the region and that the country must remain competitive, not more expensive as a destination.   As for the ten percent from the Statutory, the BTIA is stating that this measure would be in direct conflict with the purposes of the Trust which, as Belize’s national conservation trust, are to redistribute the revenue throughout the National Protected Areas System by providing funding for projects that support conservation and promote environmentally sound management of Belize’s natural and cultural resources. This, says the BTIA, is not being addressed in the national budget.  The BTIA went on to state, quote, “If GOB gets its way, Belize would have one of the highest levels of Departure Tax in the Central American and Caribbean region. Countries like the Bahamas and Costa Rica have rescinded proposals for increasing departure fees due to the negative impacts it would generate to their tourism industry. Belize needs to take heed.”  End of quote.