KRALENDIJK— The advocacy group Airport Tax Busters Bonaire (ATBB) on Sunday has sent out a press release, drawing the attention to the continuing issues surrounding the Visitor Entry Tax (VET). Since July 1, a 75 dollar entry fee is charged by the Public Entity Bonaire to every foreign visitor.
While the original communication from Government of Bonaire indicated a one-time annual fee of $50, the island council raised this amount to $75 per entry, regardless of frequency. “A traveler visiting the island 10 times within a year would pay a hefty sum of $750 in Entry Tax alone, significantly more than the previous lodging and car rental taxes. When visitors make trips to sister islands Curaçao or Aruba during their stay on Bonaire, they are required to pay the full 75 dollars of the VET every time they return to the island”, writes ATBB in her release.
Likewise, a family of four would have to pay $300 per entry. In deviation of the normal 75 dollar fee, residents of the former Netherlands Antilles pay 10 dollar per entry, also substantially more than the initially proposed fee of 10 dollars per year, regardless of the number of times the visitor arrives. “Most startlingly, even Bonaire-born individuals residing abroad are subject to the $75 fee upon returning to their birthplace. Bonaire is likely the only country imposing a tax on travellers to enter their own birthland”, according to ATBB.
ATBB also points out that the former governing coalition, formed by the MPB and UPB parties has publicly acknowledged the flaws in the new tax and actively aimed for adjustments to the VET. An official communication from the Government of Bonaire on November 17, 2022, states that the governing coalition proposed several changes to the VET. On December 8, 2022, the Government of Bonaire announced that the Island Council had not yet agreed to the proposed modifications.
According to ATBB however, since the last communication from the Government of Bonaire in December 2022, there has been no active communication on the desired or intended adjustments to the VET, despite publicly acknowledging its unintended consequences. The newly elected government coalition, once again formed by the MPB and UPB, has also remained silent on the issue.
ATBB also mentions that in online discussions and conversations with Key stakeholders, the Executive Council blames the Island Council, suggesting that the Executive Council desires changes, but that the Island Council is not cooperating. “These arguments do not convince us. The same governing coalition, comprised of MPB and UPB, remains in place both before and after the elections, albeit with a slightly different numerical makeup. It is difficult to justify that, over 13 months after the introduction of VET, and more than 7 months after the initial attempt to adjust it, the Executive Council has failed to bring about real changes to the VET”, concludes ATBB.
The pressure group also criticizes the fact that the Government of Bonaire’s has stayed completely mum on the subject, since their last release on the VET dating from December 7, 2023. “The Government, with their earlier expressions has led residents to believe that adjustments to the Visistor Entry Tax could be expected on a relatively short term, due to the many unintended consequences. Failing to fulfil these expectations goes against the principles of Good Governance”, concludes the statement by the pressure group, represented by Harald Linkels, Lisandro Cicilia and Angelo Engelhart.