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Criticism of Municipal Tax on Tourists in Bocas del Toro

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Tourists Required to Pay $3 on Isla Colon

Criticism of Municipal Tax on Tourists in Bocas del Toro

The Mayor of Bocas del Toro ensures that funds are being used to improve the image of the island and for collecting the garbage

The only thing that Eduardo Fernandez wanted to do was to reach his hotel and relax after spending 11 hours in two aircraft which brought him from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Isla Colon, in the province of Bocas del Toro.
Regularmente, las máquinas para revisar el equipaje de los viajeros están dañadas, por lo que la revisión se hace de forma  manual.
Fernandez, who was attracted by the crystal clear waters of the Bocatoreñas beaches, was surprised by officials in the municipality of Bocas del Toro, that he was told he had to pay three dollars in order to leave the air terminal.
He noted that at the time of planning the trip he was not advised that had to pay this tax. The mentioned charge is the environmental tax that the municipality began charging in 2013 with the aim of improving the collection of garbage, one of the great problems that today continues to affect the image of this tourist destination.
From the outset, this tax has generated rejection on the part of businesses in the area, which claim they do not know what true use is being made of the funds, as the collection of waste has not improved.
Gustavo Him, administrator of the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP), stated that addition to collecting the tax, the treatment received by tourists from officials of the municipality is not the most appropriate.
"Last week I witnessed how a tourist's luggage was held until he canceled the three dollars", indicated Minister Him.
The official criticized the poor state of the air terminal, which has no equipment to check the luggage of travelers.
"The municipalities want that the ATP resolved everything related with tourism, but taxes such as this affect any promotion that we can do," he said.
He said that the municipality must use decentralization funds to improve the collection of garbage and thus eliminate the charge to tourists, since in their view do not contribute to the local tourism.
Ursula Kiener, manager of Air Panama Travel, Travel Agency of the airline Air Panama, which is the only one that keeps regular flights to Isla Colon, indicated that the municipal authorities wanted the tax to be included in the cost of the airfare, to which the company opposed.
Kiener reiterated that the main problems of Colon Island are the poor disposal of trash and the poor state of the airport.
The executive continued and denounced the bad state of other domestic terminals: "In Pedasi there is no water or light; in Isla Contadora there are no chairs and the airport of Albrook is falling to pieces from water leakage", explained.
To be consulted on the matter, Martin Cirio Downer, mayor of the district of Bocas del Toro, explained that the funds generated by the payment made by tourists are used to improve the green areas of the island and in the collection of scrap.
"We have clean-up days, as well as works of embellishment of the public areas of the main islands where visitors arrive", he added.
He assured that he's open to the possibility of other alternatives to replace the three dollars tax.
With regard to the treatment they receive visitors by municipal officials, he stated that in the coming months personnel will be given permanent training, a seminar to be conducted by a person who is being trained in Argentina in the field of tourist attention.
According to Downer, the municipality receives 2 thousand dollars monthly by the charging of the municipal tax, and noted that the funds of the decentralization go 80 thousand dollars to create centers for the collection of waste. It is also intended to establish a system of monitoring through cameras to impose fines on people to Deposit trash in the streets.
As part of the decentralization plan, the Municipality of Bocas del Toro received 500 thousand dollars of the distribution by the Central Government of the funds obtained from the property tax.
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