Bermuda Government rejects calls for end to $ 40 travel fee

A Bermudian government senator has defended the continued use of a controversial travel authorization (TA) form that all tourists and returning residents have to fill out at a cost of US $ 40, despite complaints from the opposition party which has branded it a “stealth tax” and called for it to be scrapped.

Junior Health and Finance Minister Arianna Hodgson told the Upper House that even if all other emergency COVID-19 measures are dropped, the government needs the money generated from the TA which was introduced in 2020.

Hodgson said getting rid of the $ 40 payment before its planned end date of March next year would mean cutting services, raising taxes, and borrowing money.

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The TA, which was $ 75 until last March, generated an estimated $ 14 million for government coffers last year. It is budgeted to bring in some $ 22 million during the current financial year.

Arriving passengers must pay for the form and are barred from entry if they fail to fill it out correctly.

Hodgson dismissed opposition concerns as the Senate backed the extension of emergency orders intended to combat the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed the lives of 138 people on the island. There are currently 312 active cases.

She said: “The emergency order will continue to be necessary again as long as the public health emergency that we see worldwide continues to exist. The TA system would definitely remain in place if the emergency powers were to end today. And I want to make it clear that the two do not rely on each other. ”

“We can understand the politics surrounding the matters and the inconvenience… expressed by a small percentage of persons.”

Shadow Health Minister Michael Dunkley, a former prime minister, labeled the TA a “stealth tax” and said it was “now an expensive bureaucratic inconvenience”.

“It’s time for Premier [David] Burt and the government to wake up and understand the damage the TA is doing. Bermuda used to be a leader and sadly now it seems like we are a follower. Competing islands in the Caribbean have seen the wisdom in getting rid of cumbersome forms and to open up, as people want to travel, ”he added.

Representatives of more than 600 Bermuda vacation rentals earlier called on the government to scrap the TA form, saying it is negatively impacting tourism.

The Bermuda Tourism Authority has reported a modest increase in tourist arrivals for the first quarter of the year.

CMC /

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