Several sectors are calling for the postponement of the implementation of the new $100 environmental impact fee on April 1, 2017, stating that the fee will further contribute to the decrease of tourism arrivals in Palau.
The International Airline Transport Association (IATA), Japanese community in Palau, the Belau Tourism Association (BTA) and United Airlines, are among the organizations urging Congress and President Remengesau to reconsider its decision to implement the fee.
In a letter from the International Airline Transport Association (IATA) to Acting Director of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection John Tarkong, the organization said that the EIF implementation pose a number of issues and one of them is that it “contradicts with accepted international principles” on taxation.
IATA, which represents several airlines including Japan Airlines, United Airlines said that the fee is not even allocated to a specific purpose or no demonstrated link to air transport but instead to raise government revenues.
It also noted that it would result in increase of international fares and decrease travels to Palau.
“We respectfully request that the government of Palau actively reconsiders its decision to impose the EIF on international passengers,” IATA Ian Lorigan, IATA South West Pacific Area Manager stated.
At the most, Lorigan stated the fee should be collected in an efficient and orderly manner and that it will give its passengers sufficient advance notice of the fees.
BTA meanwhile said that the implementation of the fee will have negative impacts to the market citing the Japanese community concerns.
BTA said that there are inconsistencies in the law that needs to be clarified and should be discussed further.
“Specifically, we are asking that you consider delaying the implementation of the EIF until October 2017. This will give us time to connect with members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) and revisit the law,” BTA’s letter stated.
BTA is meeting with the OEK members today to discuss the issues raised in its letter.
The Japanese community in Palau meanwhile said that as it is the tourism numbers especially from the Japanese are dwindling because of variety of issues ranging from closure of Jellyfish Lake, water conservation and a higher travelers from Mainland China.
Japan tourists are the second highest market in Palau. It traditionally occupies the top spot but has been pushed to second place starting late 2014.
The community recommended that the implementation of the fee is postponed until the market stabilizes or measures are put in place to attract more tourism into the country.
United Airlines meanwhile echoed IATA’s concerns.
Barbara Hepburn Rahr, UA’s International Regulatory Asia/Pacific Senior Manager stated in a letter that the fee would have a negative impact to its economy that it needed to be repealed.
“We assert that Palau’s economy is better served by reducing barriers to trade and commerce rather than making travel more costly and burdensome,” the letter stated. [/restrict]