B.T.I.A.: New Tax Measures Bad for Tourism
On Monday, the Prime Minister presented the new budget. For the first time, the Government is proposing to collect over one billion dollars in tax revenues, an increase of eighty-eight million dollars from last year. To improve revenue, there has been some tightening of the belt with cuts here and there in ministries. But we note that in the measures, statutory boards were not spared. Government proposes to collect ten percent of their income for the 2017/2018 fiscal year. Two of the boards to be affected are PACT and the B.T.B. Today, the B.T.I.A. did not take it lightly that they were not consulted and expressed serious concerns over this proposed measure, as well as a proposal to increase departure tax. Executive Director John Burgos tells us why these proposed tax measures are bad for tourism.
John Burgos, Executive Director, B.T.I.A.
“The way the information was presented is that currently the departure tax is 38.50USD; they said it was only going to increase to forty; so if you look at it, it is only one-fifty; but that is not the reality; the reality is that the PACT fee is going to be increased; on top of the PACT fee you have to add on the other fees that form the departure tax – you have the service fee; security fee; various fees; so, this is not final yet, but this is where we believe it is gonna be, so actually instead of the departure tax going up to from thirty-eight-fifty to forty dollars; you are looking at it going up to fifty-five U.S. dollars, per non Belizean resident leaving the country of Belize; so that raises concerns for us. The other concern with that is that the Government makes no mention that we – you know we can consider agreeing to the proposed increase in the PACT fee specifically if Government recognize the need to make additional funding to protect our areas. Some of these management agencies are scraping to get by; you look at the Chiquibul; Sarstoon; Belize Barrier Reef System – all of these areas have so many needs– they don’t have enough manpower; they have infrastructure needs and PACT should be able to assist with funding for that specific purpose for protecting the environment. As you know, as we stand already, we are a very costly destination; so we have to look into that. As you know, we mentioned the examples of Costa Rica and the Bahamas; they tried to do this in their countries and they saw how negatively it impacted their tourism industry. So, they immediately removed that. So, we asked Government to completely make the decision to reverse the amendment as proposed; not to include additional taxes. With regards to the 10 percent requested from the Statutory Boards we have also concerns with the funding at the BTB and also the PACT. You have to remember that if the tax for PACT is increased and then now on top of that you are gonna remove ten percent of what is already collected – you are defeating the purpose. It is like we are neglecting what is feeding the nation.”
“So, simply put, you would say that these [proposed] measures are “bad for Tourism?”
“Definitely. Definitely we believe that. We don’t have the supporting data right now, but based on what has happened around the world, we know that it is going to be a negative impact.”