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The House of Representatives yesterday (Nov. 2) passed the Tourism Enhancement Fee Bill to provide for a tourism enhancement fee to be paid by incoming airline and cruise ship passengers. The Bill will be debated in Jamaica’s Upper House, the Senate, later this month.
Industry and Tourism Minister, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, noted that the Bill would provide the legal basis for the Ministry to establish a mechanism for the collection of a small fee from such passengers, which would be placed into a dedicated fund to be used for the sole purpose of implementing the recommendations emanating from the Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development.
The Bill allows for a fee of US$10.00 to be charged to incoming airline passengers and US$2.00 charged to cruise passengers with collection occurring at the point of sale. It also allows for monies collected to be paid into a dedicated Tourism Enhancement Fund established as a corporate body falling under the auspices of the Ministry.
In addition, the legislation provides for the establishment of a management framework for policy and general administration of the affairs of the Fund and for coordinating the implementation of the various projects and programmes. “This will include a Board of Management of the Fund reporting to the Minister of Tourism and the Project Management Unit established within the Ministry,” Mrs. Assamba explained. The Bill also provides for the exemption of certain categories of persons from payment of the fee and the refund of the fee in certain circumstances.
Further, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will play a critical role in relation to the collection of the Tourism Enhancement Fee and arrangements have been made for that Association to act as the Ministry’s agent in collecting the fees from participating airlines.
Minister Assamba informed that IATA had provided preliminary guidelines and that the Ministry was reviewing a draft agreement of the Association’s Airport Enhancement and Financing (AEF) Service. In addition to its other functions, IATA processes ticket sales information in respect of tickets sold by travel agents in various countries and also has a system of collection from these same agents for final payment to the respective airlines.
Speaking to the role of the Project Management Unit, Mrs. Assamba noted that this Unit, which was to be established within the Ministry as the administrative arm/secretariat for the board of directors, would: receive and evaluate all requests for funding; prepare submissions for the review board; liaise with the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) on the tendering and contracts award process; monitor the implementation of projects; prepare requests for the draw down of funds from the funds manager; and be responsible for all reporting requirements.
In addition to being able to access funds for its own projects, TPDCo would have a technical role in the implementation of projects by other agencies, the Tourism Minister expounded. On behalf of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, TPDCo will be expected to award contracts; publish bid documents; monitor project execution; arrange for payments for work completed; and do the accounting for the funds disbursed through their corporate services unit.
Presenting arguments in support of the importance of the Tourism Master Plan, Mrs. Assamba pointed out that the Plan was an attempt to provide a comprehensive framework for the future development of the island’s tourist industry and aimed to achieve growth based on a sustainable market position. She noted that the Plan was also aimed at building an inclusive industry, ensuring environmental sustainability and enhancing the visitor experience.
Responding to concerns put forward by the Opposition that the fee might impact negatively on the industry and turn tourists away from the destination, Mrs. Assamba assured that Jamaica was not a one dimensional destination but one that catered to mid market, upscale, all-inclusives and the meeting, incentives and sports markets. “We are moving away from being a destination that is driven by price to one that is driven by product,” she stated.

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