Tax 'not too much'
by JULIE WILSON
MINISTER OF TOURISM NOEL LYNCH has defended Government's decision to increase departure tax by more than 100 per cent.
He said it was necessary to help Government recoup some of the $200 million spent on the redevelopment of Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).
Last December, GAIA announced a 120 per cent mark-up on the previous $25 and then instituted a further $5 security fee, departure tax now standing at $60.
He said despite the expansion, the bustling airport was still congested, particularly during the winter period when the home-porting (fly/cruise transfer) programme was in full swing.
Lynch said the ministry had been trying to come up with the best way to deal with the 50 per cent increase in passenger traffic over the past five years and stressed that a larger terminal and more parking positions for aircraft were needed.
"We need a new terminal building; we need more parking positions. We have just introduced four apron buses to GAIA to take you, when you are in that far parking position close to Gemswick, closer to the terminal," he said during a Press conference yesterday at Sherbourne Conference Centre to announce a special US$378 fare to Fort Lauderdale on Air Jamaica.
He spoke of an expansion of the departure terminal eastwards in the vicinity of Gate 15, where passengers usually boarded American Airlines flights.
He also said four jet bridges would be constructed to facilitate passengers on the larger planes.
"We are talking about a work in progress and I said we spent $200 million and there has to be some cost recovery in somewhere and therefore the $30 is not too much to spend. It is in the ticket cost anyhow.
"You do not have to pay when you get to Grantley Adams so I think that it is more than justified," Lynch said.
He also rejected claims that the jump in departure tax rates was the reason behind the high air fare prices.
The minister stressed that the high ticket prices were as a result of the increasing cost of oil, increased security costs and the unfinished buyout by LIAT of Caribbean Star's assets. (JW)