Speaking in the 2012/13 Budget Debate at Gordon House yesterday, Samuda pointed out that with some leading hotels already feeling the financial crunch, which has forced many of them to discount prices to keep the rooms full, any further loss of visitors to major resort towns like Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios would not only affect small businesses, including hotels, but the whole Jamaican economy, in light of its significance as an export.
“This industry is larger than all other exports combined, and I warn you here today minister, the creation of further disincentives will result in dire consequences for our economic recovery,” the Opposition spokesman said.
Samuda went to bat for the tourism industry as tourism stakeholders agreed to return to the table today with Government officials to continue dialogue on the recently announced tax measures, in the hope of hammering out an agreement to lessen the tax burden on the industry.
Members of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) will continue to press the Government to rethink the impending new taxes announced by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips last Thursday as part of measures to raise just more than $23 billion to plug the hole in the Budget.
Following an outcry from the sector, Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill and ministry technocrats met with JHTA representatives yesterday, but no conclusion was reached.
JHTA immediate Past President Wayne Cummings said, however, that it was a good sign that both sides are committed to returning to the table and that the dialogue had started.
“A number of things were placed on the table and tomorrow (today) we will hammer out the final details as there are some things the minister has to go through with the technocrats,” Cummings told the Jamaica Observer. The former JHTA head said the discussions were not expected to go beyond today as a resolution must be reached for both parties quickly.
Last Thursday, Phillips announced the introduction of a specific room tax with rates of US$2 to US$12 per room per night, depending on the size of the hotel.
Following the announcement, JHTA President Evelyn Smith said the association’s members were already calculating the costs to be absorbed by them when the measure kicks in on September 1.
“We have gotten feedback from persons and the various figures are in the millions of dollars, particularly for the larger entities,” Smith said in an earlier interview with the Observer.
She explained that when all the costs are tallied the new tax rates for some members will be as high as 16 per cent.