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Escape to Cancun or Maui? Tourism destinations look at new taxes as economies reopen

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Make it less daisy on the sandy beaches of Cancun.

Tourists in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo will soon be hit with a new tax of about $ 11 to be paid before smoky and relaxed visitors leave the region.

The new 225 peso tax starts on April 1, just as demand is growing for spring and summer travel by tourists stranded inside for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And Mexico is not the only travel destination where tourists can face new travel taxes.

Hawaii is imposing an increased tax on rental cars. Thailand added a $ 10 to a tourist fee, and even Montana, another outdoor country that grew in popularity during the pandemic, is looking to raise more tourism tax revenue.

Quintana Roo, which is also home to Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, has been among the hottest departure destinations for American travelers who have been wary of traveling too far abroad with ever-changing restrictions.

Airlines and others in the travel industry are throwing their support behind vaccine passports to boost pandemic-depressed travel.

Tourism taxes are not a new topic, but they have reappeared due to COVID, said Skift global tourism reporter Lily Girma in an interview. When COVID hit, many tourism organizations saw their taxes disappear or fall or stop. Now the discussion has emerged about how to maintain revenue.

Tourism taxes are a key element for local governments around the world. Prior to COVID-19, the city of Dallas would typically raise $ 4 million to $ 7 million a month in hotel occupancy taxes, which mainly went to fund the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. This fell by more than two-thirds during the pandemic, according to city budget figures.

The American Hotel and Housing Association estimates that state and local governments lost about $ 13 billion in hotel tax revenue in 2020 in the United States alone.

Usually, tourism taxes come from hotel stays and car rentals, but Girma said states are looking for ways to generate more reliable income as hotel stays have dropped during COVID-19.

Quintana Roo Secretary of State for Tourism Marisol Venegas told reporters that the tax is needed because of the deficit that the state of Quintana Roo will have due to the decline in tourism as a result of the pandemic, according to Riviera Maya Times.

Tourists at Quintana Roo will be able to pay the tax at their hotel when booking through agents at the hotel or when they leave. The state has even set up a collection point at airports to pay the tax.

Tourism destinations are also looking to add tax dollars for regenerative purposes, Girma said. This includes educating local people, environmental projects or even spending money to restore historic heritage sites.

There are also risks.

Tourism stakeholders are not happy because they think tourists do not pay for it and will go somewhere else, Girma said.

Clearly there is high demand for places like Cancun from American travelers.

The airline has 692 flights from DFW International Airport scheduled to land in Quintana Roo state in Mars, the highest number ever for each month, according to airline data company Cirium. American Airlines has increased flights to Cancun as well as other Mexican beach destinations. Airlines and Sun Country Airlines are also adding hundreds of flights from DFW to the state of the Yucatan Peninsula to meet demand.

Hawaii, which face issues with over-tourism before the pandemic, is considering a climate impact mitigation tariff to be charged for rental cars. A dollar figure for each car rental has not been set, but the bill has already passed the Hawaii House of Representatives and is working in the Senate.

Thailand began charging a new tourism tax in January, which is about $ 10 per tourist.

Montana, a pandemic hotspot for outdoor travelers seeking social distance, is considering a law that would ensure overseas travel booking firms pay the same tax as in-state companies.

Any new tax could deter tourism in a climate when travelers seek cheap departures, said Steve Schur, president of the Travel Technology Association.

Leisure travelers are incredibly price sensitive, he said.

An Airlines plane taxi at DFW International Airport.

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