Caribbean Hoteliers Reject Guyanese President's Statements

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The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has firmly rejected comments by Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo, who described as "absolute nonsense" claims that governments are taxing hotels out of existence.

In the wake of comments Jagdeo made at a press conference at the CARICOM Summit held recently in St. Kitts, CHTA President Josef Forstmayr said his members are disappointed by the unfortunate remarks related to the already tax-riddled industry.

"With all due respect, the CHTA is of the view that President Jagdeo speaks from a misinformed position on taxation in the various islands throughout the region and with little or no knowledge of the tourism industry and the contribution it makes to Caribbean economies," Forstmayr said.

It is exactly for this reason why the CHTA delegation said it requested a place on all CARICOM Summit agendas.  "It is quite obvious that our political leaders have a narrow and limited perspective on the far-reaching positive effects of tourism on our Caribbean economies," he added.

According to the CHTA, it is a well-known fact that the entire supply chain of the hotel industry bears too much of an increasing tax burden; workers are taxed, supplies are taxed, utilities are taxed and guests of hotels are taxed in several ways including at the hotel, on the airline and at the airport, sometimes with both arrival and departure taxes.

Forstmayr added: "CHTA would like to extend an open invitation to President Jagdeo, and anyone else misinformed, to a discussion forum on tourism to explore the overwhelming, sometimes immeasurable but undeniable impact that tourism has on our Caribbean economies."

Forstmayr reiterated that CHTA was very disappointed that tourism was not an agenda item at the CARICOM meetings going on in St. Kitts, despite the fact that three years ago CARICOM heads decided to make tourism a regular agenda item at all CARICOM meetings.

In the November 29, 2010 Caribbean Trade and Investment report ‘2010: Strategies For Recovery, Renewal and Reform’, CARICOM said, "Caribbean governments have an important role to play in revitalizing the tourism sector," and acknowledged its duty to "ensure that taxation cost (room tax, departure tax, corporate tax and service charge) does not have too adverse an effect on international competitiveness."  Yet despite their acknowledgement, CARICOM has still not embraced tourism as the number one generator of jobs in the Caribbean.

Forstmayr stated: "We in the Caribbean hotel industry recognize that the economic importance of travel and tourism to the Caribbean is indisputable.  However, there is still insufficient awareness and understanding of the industry's economic contribution and how it permeates the depth and breadth of the general economy and overall fabric of Caribbean society."

The CHTA’s recent ‘Tourism is Key’ campaign highlights several important facts, including that travel and tourism directly and indirectly employs more than 1.9 million people in the Caribbean (1 in every 9 jobs).  It also accounts for 12.8 percent of the Caribbean's economic activity (GDP) - more than in any other region in the world.

Forstmayr said, "This benefit of tourist spending impacting into the wider economy is the relevance that needs to be conveyed to our own people in the islands, so that everyone understands the importance of these tourists and the dollars they bring to the economy.

"We need to continue to remind our own people that tourism business means jobs, not only in the hotels, but for the taxis, the restaurants and the farmers and fishermen that fill the restaurants with food.  It also means work for the seamstresses, crafts people, shopkeepers and manufacturers, including all their workers plus the deliverymen as well as the trash collectors.”

The Nassau Guardian
July 7, 2011