The Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association Charles Herbert said it right yesterday: “If there is any concern that we have it is that [Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mia Mottley’s] Budget transferred quite a bit of the burden for revenue on the tourists coming to Barbados”.
However, like him, we hope that this would not reduce our arrivals, even though it has to be said that this is by far, “the riskiest aspect of the Budget”.
For with our international business sector currently under severe challenge from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the like, what is the use really in tinkering with our bread-and-butter tourism?
Especially when one considers all the problems that still exist along our southern tourist belt with raw sewage spilling onto our streets, not to mention the equally unpleasant situation that has now developed along the north, south and east coasts that are currently blanketed in brown, foul-smelling Sargassum seaweed.
Really, our visitors don’t need another excuse to pack it up and go elsewhere.
But alas! We have now decided to add insult to their injury by taxing them even while they continue to bravely stomach our tawdry stink, which have proven to be far more than “transient inconveniences”, as our former leader infamously once said, and was made to regret.
For all of our sakes, including her own, we can only hope that his successor is right when she says that like St Lucia, we are unlikely to suffer any fallout from our latest increase in departure taxes, even though we are not as confident as she clearly is based on what our online readers, many of whom are repeat visitors to these shores, have already said they will do in response to her $1.2 billion adjustment package.
As our regular poster Veronica Boyce said today: “[My] main concern is the departure fee and hotel levy on the tourist. I don’t see why the tourist should bear the brunt of the last incompetent recklessness Government.
“Please note Barbados is not the only holiday destination in the world. Otherwise the mini Budget is ok,” she said, while suggesting that “Government should volunteer to take a cut in their salary for two years or give up the benefits, including entertainment”.
Nicky Pearson also warned that tourists were unlikely to keep coming. In fact, he said: “I know a number of people who have gone elsewhere due to the sewage and seaweed this year.
“The large tax increase could keep them and others from returning,” he stressed.
Agreeing with him, Alison Farrer said: “Definitely will stop people visiting. How to ruin tourism in one easy step! . . . It’ll be less attractive to us tourists . . . vile sewage, nasty seaweed & now extra charges? No thank you! Plenty of other places to visit.”
Another poster, Suzzie Que, warned that “that’s not going to help Barbados get back on track. You are going to lose your tourism. You have to remember Barbados is competing against other islands who are cheaper.
“Really, if you don’t have tourism then you will have more crime,” she added.
The comments came immediately following Ms Mottley’s announcement of an Airline Travel and Tourism Development fee to be levied on those leaving Barbados for international destinations at US$70 per person compared to US$35 for those travelling intra-regionally.
This translates into US$280 or Bds$560 in departure taxes for the average family of four.
Yes, in the midst of our severe economic challenges it seems on the surface a quick and dirty way to collect $95 million in much needed revenue.
However, our hope is that when combined with our new room rate levy of between US$2.50 and US$10 per night; our new a 2.5 per cent product levy on all Direct Tourism Services and our ten per cent levy for shared accommodation such as Airbnb and HomeAway, these risky tax measures do not have the effect of running away visitors when our island needs them most for both earning foreign exchange and achieving growth.
Otherwise, we could be well be witnessing a most unfortunate display of biting the very hand that feeds us.