Holder lends support to cruise lines

International specialists on Caribbean tourism have backed Jean Holder of the CTO for standing up to the cruise lines. The Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) is staunchly defending the proposed US$20 per head cruise tax as a means to finance sustainable Caribbean tourism development.

“Right on!” was how Ross Klein, a Professor of Social Work at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John`s, Canada reacted to Holder`s charge that cruise lines have been allowed to operate in the Caribbean, using Caribbean facilities and assets, and making considerable profits, while paying only a small share of the cost of the resources they rely on.

Klein, who has written two books and many articles about the cruise industry, said “with its concern for Caribbean islands and local communities, I thought the cruise industry would have been anxious to support the Caribbean cruise ticket levy, especially because as a port fee and tax it is passed directly onto the customers.” He said that the added value to the cruise line is that the levy is to improve the infrastructure and welfare of Caribbean peoples, so the money will ultimately provide an enhanced experience for cruise ship passengers.

Michelle Paige, President of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), however warned that the Caribbean could become an uncompetitive cruise destination if it proceeded with the implementation of the head tax. “Taxation is a disincentive to travel. Taxation is never the way to go, especially in this economic climate,” she told the Caribbean Media Corporation.

But Lelei LeLaulu, president of US-based Counterpart International, says the Caribbean had nothing to lose by coming together and levying the tax. “Ships will continue to cruise in the region and these revenue`s will go a long way to upgrade the product and protect the region`s precious environment which is under severe threat from these mega liners. Eventually, the cruise industry will realise it`s good for them, too, in the long run to contribute positively to a region that gives them so much.”

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LeLaulu said the Caribbean ought to thank officials such as Jean Holder, Berthia Parle, President-elect of the Caribbean Hotel Association, St. Lucian government officials and former Air Jamaica Vice President, Allen Chastanet for speaking out on this important issue. “These eminent West Indians are long-term visionaries who care deeply about the socio-economic prosperity of Caribbean people and the region ought to side with them, not the cruise lines,” he said.

Jean Holder said CTO
is aware that teams from the FCCA have been making the rounds in the Caribbean and presenting their side of the case, somewhat aggressively, both to governments and to private sector suppliers, and so it is even more important for CTO, which represents the tourism interests of Caribbean people, to ensure that the Caribbean public and specifically those Caribbean suppliers to the cruise sector, have a fair and balanced view of what the issues are.

While the FCCA denounces the proposed tax in the Caribbean, Holder says very little is known about the very high taxes and fees that countries in North America and Europe impose on the very tourists who are traveling to the region. “The US government imposes taxes of US $42 on every ticket sold for travel by air out of the country. The World Travel and Tourism Council reckons that taxes included in tickets for travel from Europe are some 30 per cent of the value of the tickets. As we speak, European countries are considering an additional environmental tax on travel from Europe, with the tax for long haul trips to countries such as ours, being much larger than for shorter trips. It seems that it is alright for developed countries to tax consumers to meet their tourism and environmental development costs, but if Caribbean countries do so, this is in some way immoral.”

Related Stories on Caribbean Weekly:
(31/08/03) Cruise Lines Boost Economic Growth
(02/09/09) Caribbean Cruise Sector Needs Assessment
(05/09/09) Regional Cruise Consensus Critical
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