After a considerable period of time going back and forth, Bonaire's Bestuurscollege or Executive Council has prepared a new policy regarding tourist taxes and its collection. In December 2021, just before the new year, the Council has presented its findings and conclusions to the Eilandraad (Island Council) for further processing and implementation. This could provide a considerable boost for sustainable development on the island over the medium and long term.
About the tourist tax reform on Bonaire
Despite the fact that the original target date of January 1st, 2022, for the implementation of the new tourist tax policy has not been met, this is good news. The goal is now to have the new policies enter into force before the end of the first quarter of 2022. That is to say, before the end of March 2022. The Executive Council's proposal was born out of necessity, seeing as the current structure for the calculation and collection of tourist taxes is highly inefficient. It's estimated that only about half of the tourist taxes due are actually collected nowadays, which represents a loss of millions of dollars for the island and its inhabitants on a yearly basis.
Over the past years, the Openbaar Lichaam Bonaire (OLB), also known as the Entitdat Pùbliko Boneiru in Papiamento, together with the touristic sector on the island has been trying to introduce a new form of tourist taxation. Bonaire's Executive Council now proposed to reform the tourist tax for non-residents in such a way that it is collected once a year, either when the non-resident arrives at the local airport or via an online payment prior to arrival. The proposed amount for this yearly payment would be set at 50 dollars per non-resident. For citizens of the Dutch Caribbean, this fee will be lowered to 10 dollars per person, while Bonairian students studying outside of the island will be completely exempt from this tax.
Investments in sustainability
With the increased income from tourist taxes, the Bonaire government wants to improve the quality and the durability of the island's infrastructure and its tourist offering. “These revenues can be used to promote the local culture and to position Bonaire as an authentic and unique island. One of the most important goals is to generate more revenue for the local economy by investing in education and training for inhabitants of Bonaire, so that they can actively participate in the local touristic industry while also making a decent living”, states the Executive Council in its proposal to the Island Council.
They also propose to increase taxation for tourism as a result of cruise ships. “The island of Bonaire maintains excellent relationships with the major cruise organizations”, the Council continues, “We have recently had talks with these companies and a large majority of them has let us know that they support the proposed tourist tax reforms for cruise tourism”.
The basis for this article was originally published in the Antilliaans Dagblad (www.antilliaansdagblad.com) in December 2021.