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SVG trying to boost intra-regional travel

SVG trying to boost intra-regional travel
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves


DEPARTURE TAX COULD be cut in half as this country moves to encourage intra-regional travel to offset negative impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the tourism sector.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on March 14 that he would like to reduce departure tax, which is usually US$40 by 50 per cent for a period not exceeding six months.

“We have to think creatively in relation to how we are going to sustain our economy. Services are important, tourism services,” he said.

“I’m waiting for the number from the ministry of finance because I want to see how much revenue we would lose, because I would like to reduce the departure tax…” Gonsalves noted that both the United States and countries in Europe are not encouraging travel at the moment, as a result of the rapid spread of COVID-19.

And to date, 75 per cent of cruise ships have indicated that they will be suspending services.

The prime minister however noted that there are many persons within the OECS and CARICOM.

He said he has already spoken with Glen Beache, the CEO of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority and Kim Halbich, the president of the SVG Hotel and Tourism Association to discuss offering specials on rooms.

“You may say well why are you encouraging this, wouldn’t people use it to go to America? No. The concession which we will be making will be for Vincentian passport holders, CARICOM passport holders, for travelling inside of CARICOM,” Gonsalves said.

He added that “if you travelling outside, you will still have to pay the extent of the tax. The extent by which I will reduce it will depend when I see the final numbers and how they are run. I’m hoping to get that on Monday morning”.

The prime minister said he is attempting to ensure some hotel trade and yachting business continues within the region.

“You can’t lock yourself off from the world. We have to take reasonable steps. You may say, what about people coming in with COVID-19 from the region? Well thus far, we haven’t had community transmission. We haven’t had local transmission,” Gonsalves said.

He added; “We have had people coming from outside and they are either quarantined or isolated. So we’ll do that and manage and look at it carefully on an ongoing basis”.