[Op-Ed] The $10 tourism fee introduced by the Haitian government: positive or negative decision?

  • Posted by Marina Vatav
  • August 15, 2014 7:07 AM EDT

On July 1st the Ministry of tourism introduced a $10 levy to all visitors coming to Haiti. According to the Ministry, this measure is aimed at "strengthening the promotion of tourism in Haiti".

Manuel Knight, tourism sector planner, has shared his opinion on this decision by the Haitian Government.

"There have been such fees in some countries for many years [Mexico and Egypt come to mind] and although some visitors may grumble, the fees are generally accepted by the traveling public. It is to be expected that Diaspora Haitians will opt to use their Haitian passports rather than any foreign ones, to avoid the levy. Dominicans may request that it be waived for them in the good neighbor spirit. To be perceived to be fair and efficient, a few things are worth attention:

- All ports of entry, whether by road, sea or air, need to be prepared for fully consistent application of the levy. Since cruise passengers stay mere hours in Haiti and already pay some sort of fee, this one might be waived.

- Hopefully the government has very fairly weighed the pros and cons of alternatives, such as levies collected at hotels, on taxis, various airport fees and so on.

- In many countries the issuance of an obligatory 'tourist card' for a fee to the targeted types of travelers usually upon their arrival, [as has been the case in Mexico and other countries] has for years been the method.

- In some countries, upon payment of the fee, the visitor is given stamps to be pasted into his/her passport, not an ideal solution.

- In some countries this levy calls for an arduous extra formality forcing visitors, often after exhausting trips, to queue for sometimes long periods before even getting to the immigration control where each visitor is forced to queue again (I just went through this 2-queue process in Istanbul).

With the rising concern for security matters in the US and other governments, the selection of the best method of collection today is a more complicated matter requiring careful study. Moreover, much of the traveling public will be more amenable if they see some improvement in service from this additional outlay, beyond the boost in the all-important promotion funding the levy will make possible. The Ministry of Tourism, therefore, could announce the expansion of its corps of multilingual tourist police and some other worthy intervention resulting from the new levy.

I have not even mentioned the cynicism that will welcome this news, as to the possible mishandling of the new funds. But plenty of countries have developed good enough systems with safeguards so the fee-collecting agency, if it is well prepared, will be able to assert its ability to set up an honest system. This responsibility may logically fall under the Direction des Impots or Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres rather than under the Ministry of Tourism directly. However, the Ministry of Tourism may which wish to administer this levy itself firstly since tourism’s importance to the national economy is growing, and secondly since the ministry’s capabilities are growing and need to grow in tandem. And, if it introduces such a measure successfully, it will be perceived as a more important agency gaining in its sphere of activity."

Manuel L. Knight is a tourism sector planner based in Washington DC consulting for development agencies and hotel developers and their lenders. He is a top contributor to TripAdvisor.com. His first mission to Haiti was in 1998. mk@KnightConsultLLC.com ©