Travellers leaving Guyana face new fee

Passengers arriving at Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

After enjoying the festive season with family and friends in their homeland, thousands of Guyanese passengers were slapped with an increase in Departure Tax, named a Security Departure fee of GYD$1000 (USD$5.00), leaving Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on January 1, 2017 when the measure went into effect.

According to the airport administration, all departing passengers must pay the Departure Security Fee, implemented by Finance Minister Winston Jordan who, in his budget speech had announced that the departure tax payable by persons leaving Guyana has remained unchanged for years, and is among the lowest in the world.

As such, Minister Jordan said the Guyana government travel tax that increased from $2,500 to $3,500 (USD$17.50) was put in place to enable airlines to collect and remit the tax to the Revenue Authority, thereby, “making for one less departure line at our airports,” and reducing the cost and administrative burden on the GRA. This, he added, would ensure consistency with international practices in the travel industry, according to a release.

The total departure tax is now GYD$5000, USD$25.00.

The announcement, however, brought mixed reaction from Guyanese, some, who feel the Republic is an over-taxed nation, not showing any returns for the increases.

In response to invited comments from social media followers, community activist Mark Benschop argues that the departure tax is burdensome on low-income workers who will feel a pinch in their pocket.

“It’s always the small man / woman who has to carry the weight. Apart from tax on many things, including water and electricity, I’m yet to hear about job creation or any major investment for the country,” said Benschop, a onetime mayoral candidate.

Jerome M. Patton who is in favor of paying the fee said, “$1000 Guyanese dollars is only $5 USD. That is not a hike. Most people traveling to and from Guyana, are from richer countries and certainly can afford that increase.”

Noel Issacs said he detests having to pay more for poor conditions at Cheddi Jagan International Airport, and added, “the security staff needs proper training.”

“I queried the increase and when an explanation was given to me, I was satisfied that the funds are very important for the plans of the airport expansion. With a new airport in the making, these funds are required.”

Lorna Welshman-Neblett added, “I just wish this was put in place at the time of the 50th celebration,” while Olive Crawford foresees the increase going towards rebuilding the airport, and said she would not mind paying the new fee.

“I support the increase because it is reasonable, affordable and goes towards infrastructural improvement, a plausible increase. I am surprised it is not a bigger increase,” said Noel Moses.

Guyanese-Canadian businessman Derrick Parkinson, who travels to Guyana regularly, stated, “I have a home and business in Guyana. I am in Guyana much more that many,” but agrees that proper service and training of airport staff are needed, although he added, the service does not really bother him personally.

Lawrence Houston added that it is plausible and reasonable to those with no foreign incomes. “But that’s still GYD$1000 for Guyanese at home. Those little increases, here and there, add-up,” he said.

While many would argue that it is an added cost to their travel expenses, Janice Hall of New Jersey, is okay with paying the extra USD$5.00. “I don’t mind paying the increased fee. I do mind the lousy service by immigration and customs officials especially when departing Guyana. Over the past several visits to GT I’ve promised myself never to return. It’s disgusting, despicable, and it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth from the land of my birth.

Shamela SG too, agrees with the extra amount, stating, “I would not mind paying the fee. It’s reasonable, if it is used for what it is intended.”

Traveller Malika Clarke Zuckerberg from Brooklyn, said the GYD$10000 (USD$5U) increase on Security Fees goes toward renovating Cheddi Jagan International Airport, “where we can feel safer when surveillance cameras are installed, and better custom service.”

Montague Congreaves said from a strategic and business perspective it makes sense. However from all other perspectives the fee will be disliked, since it seems to be another way of ripping folks off. “Hopefully, the monies generated will be put to good use.”

Persons 65 years and older will no longer be required to pay the full Departure Tax when departing from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. Instead, these persons will only be required to pay the Security Tax.

To learn more about travel tax guidelines, go to www.gra.gov.gy.

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