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Tourists support Bali tax plan. But where will the money go?

Jakarta Post - February 20, 2019

Ni Komang Erviani, Denpasar – Hans van Ginneken and his wife Corrie fell in love with Bali the first time they visited the resort island several years ago.

This year, during the Dutch couple's second holiday in Bali, they decided to go on a Java-Bali round trip.

"Balinese people are quite friendly, the island is beautiful and the rice fields are amazing," Ginneken told The Jakarta Post in Sanur, one of the island's popular beaches, recently.

The couple said they hoped to visit again in the future, despite the Bali administration's plan to charge a US$10 levy on every foreign tourist visiting the island.

"There is no problem. It's only $10. As long as [the administration] uses the money for the environment, nothing else," Ginneken emphasized, adding that he was confident most tourists would still come to Bali and pay the levy.

"When Bali does something about the environment, when everybody does something about that, I think it's better," he said.

But tourists, he said, should know exactly where the money was going. "You have to be sure that it is going to protect the environment and culture," he added.

Bengt Torolf Bagge, another visitor echoed these views. "If it's just $10, I think it doesn't matter. That's fine," Bagge, who was visiting the island for the second time with his wife from Finland, said.

The Bali administration has drafted a bylaw on tourist contributions for environmental and cultural preservation, which has been discussed with the Bali Legislative Council since December. Through the bylaw, the administration plans to impose a $10 levy on foreign tourists.

The revenue from the levy will be allocated to fund programs to preserve the environment and Balinese culture, as the island province is currently battling an excessive amount of plastic waste.

A tourism expert from Udayana University, Ida Bagus Puja Astawa, said a study conducted by the university and environmental group Conservancy International in 2015 showed that 60 percent of foreign tourists were willing to pay for environmental and cultural conservation. "It won't discourage tourists," Puja said.

The secretary of the university's Culture and Tourism Research Center also said that, according to the study, those who opposed the direct tax on airfares or at airports said that funds should be raised from hotel and restaurant taxes.

The study also found that the average tax that foreign tourists were willing to pay was $13. "So, $10 is not a big amount of money," he added.

The administration and the council were still considering ways to collect the tax. Options include incorporating it in the air ticket price along with a passenger service tax or collecting it at a special counter at the airport. The options, however, are still being disputed by related parties.

The first option has been challenged by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that has argued it would breach the Chicago Convention on international civil aviation, which prohibits fees and other charges being imposed based on entry, transit, or exit from a territory.

The group also pointed out that international passengers departing from Denpasar currently paid a passenger service charge of Rp 225,000 (US$15.9).

I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport deputy general manager Rahadian D. Yogisworo said the airport fully supported the plan. However, he said he did not advise the administration to open a special counter at the airport to collect the levy. He said the counter would negatively impact the airport's services.

"We do not recommend the administration opens a counter at the airport to collect the levy, as it goes against international airport service standards," Yogiswara said. He suggested that the tax be included in the airfares.

Bali Revenues Agency head I Made Santa said the discussions were still ongoing to find the best method. "There are 48 countries around the world that impose similar taxes, including Japan. So, why can't we also impose it to protect our environment and culture?" he said.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/02/20/tourists-support-bali-tax-plan-but-where-will-the-money-go.html