I found that very interesting article about the Tourist Arrival Fee I want to share with you:
The minister of Finance in his budget speech for 2004-2005 announced a "Tourist Arrival Fee" of 20 euros for every adult tourist and 10 euros for every junior tourist flying to Mauritius. This measure will bring Rs 300 million to Government! Is this new levy right or wrong?
The private sector and the Chairman of "l'Association des hôteliers et restaurateurs de l'île Mauice" (AHRIM) took position against this measure whilst emphasizing on the slow growth of the tourism industry for the last three years. Are they right or wrong?
This new levy should be put in the right context to analyse its perception and implications. It is true that the downturn of the tourism industry is alarming in a situation of fierce competition with other tourist destinations, but hoteliers should not shoot at arguments about a reduction in tourist arrivals due to this new levy. Hoteliers should not, after all, discard factors such as the F & B prices charged in their restaurants and bars. The new levy is to some extent justified; unfortunately, the way it has been presented is totally wrong. I am sure that shortly after the budget speech last Friday, tour operators worldwide selling our destination shouted out loud against this tourist arrival fee. Is the approach to impose this levy right? Has a spokesperson been designated to communicate the imposition of this new levy to the players of the tourism industry? The answers to these questions will unfortunately remain blurred.
Let us be realistic: the tourism industry is a profitable business but this does not mean that our policy makers should make decisions without consulting the stakeholders of the industry. In my opinion, the timing of the tourist arrival fee is somewhat wrong and our destination is not mature enough to absorb it. The tourist arrival fee will make our destination even more fragile on the worldwide market. At the time of the September 11 attack, the tourist arrival fee would have been more easily accepted. Tourists would have understood the imposition of such a levy to ensure security, increase environment protection, improve infrastructure and of course maintain the sustainability of the tourism sector. At that time, it would have been totally justified and would have surely been welcomed more positively by stakeholders. Today, how will hoteliers justify this new levy to their tour operators? How will hoteliers support their arguments? We should get things right and understand once for all that tour operators have hundreds of destinations to promote and sell - so why should they bother convincing tourists to come to Mauritius when alternative destinations are more price-attractive and friendly? We are currently highly dependent on tour operators - in the absence of a parallel distribution channel - and we have no choice than to collaborate with them.
Will hoteliers absorb the additional euro in their pricing strategy or will tour operators accept to increase their packages?
What about tourists coming to Mauritius by cruise ships? Will the tourist arrival fee be applicable? How will the fee-collection be carried out in these cases?
The tourist arrival fee will be charged on the ticket bought by tourists, will this new levy be perceived as an increase in air fare? Are airline companies ready for this new fee-collection system and transfer to Government? Do airline companies have the resources to handle the collection of this fee? Has a collection mechanism been worked out? The constant increase in fuel price on the world market will definitely result in an additional increase in the air fare, thus causing an increase in the budget for tourists coming to Mauritius. Is the tourism industry prepared to take risks involved on the introduction of such a tourist arrival fee? I recently heard that the receipts from the tourist arrival fee will be used to promote the destination and carry out aggressive marketing; will this be a reality?
I sincerely wish so, but am very doubtful when an increase of only Rs 20 million has been allocated to the MTPA for promotion and marketing! The tourist arrival fee is imposed at a very wrong moment, when the industry is facing new challenges. The additional 2,000 rooms by end of this year will no doubt further drop our overall room occupancy rates and with the limited promotion budget, the destination will become less visible. Is this risk manageable? There are not hundreds of solutions to the challenges of our tourism industry. A more important promotion budget, identifying new tourism products through research and a focussed marketing will allow us to picture our tourism industry with less concern.