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Businesses want TA form-filling process to be scrapped

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Businesses have branded the highly controversial Travel Authorisation Form “frustrating” amid calls for the charge to be scrapped.

A screenshot from a Government of Bermuda instructional video, dated October 2021, for completing a Travel Authorisation Form.

The comments by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce come after the Government admitted that the $40 fee to enter the country was now a revenue-raising exercise and not a Covid-prevention one.

The charge raised an estimated $14 million in the past year and is set to rake in $22 million in the 12 months to next April, when it is slated to be abolished.

The opposition One Bermuda Alliance has insisted it must be got rid of now as it is damaging tourism and reducing the island’s income by far more than the money generated by the TA procedure.

Nathan Kowalski, president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce (File Photograph)

Nathan Kowalski, president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, suggested that the fee could be added to travel ticket prices to make the form-filling process less inconvenient.

“We have heard a lot of frustration about it. It would be better if it were done in a way that was easier to administer.

“Possibly, it could be charged at the time of ticket purchase. Tag it on to that rather than make it a separate process,” Mr Kowalski said.

“There are better ways of collecting the $40. At the moment people are concerned about getting a response back.

“It is frustrating because of the procedure. With cruise ships it seems to have an impact.

“It’s pretty common knowledge the effect the process is having on coming to Bermuda.”

Jason Hayward, Minsiter for Economy and Labour (File Photograph)

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, refused to be drawn on business concerns on the impact of the TA when he launched a strategy aimed at cutting youth unemployment.

Pressed on employers’ frustrations about the TA, the minister said: “There is no correlation between the TA form and youth unemployment.

“From my understanding, and from what the Bermuda Tourism Authority put out, tourism is actually improving.

“I do not see a direct correlation between the TA and youth unemployment.”

Arianna Hodgson, the Junior Minister of Finance and Health, provoked controversy last week when she told the Senate that the much criticised charge was meant to raise revenue.

As she pushed for an extension of emergency orders regarding Covid, Ms Hodgson told the Upper House: “The TA system would definitely remain in place if the emergency powers were to end today.

“And I want to make it clear that the two do not rely on each other.”

She added: “We can understand the politics surrounding the matters, and the inconvenience ... expressed by a small percentage of persons.

“I truly believe that the benefits outweigh the inconvenience. The alternatives ... to scrapping the TA would mean cutting services, raising taxes and borrowing more money.

“And, unfortunately, we are not in a position to do those things. And so, yes, the TA will be around until March 31, 2023.”

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Published June 03, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated June 03, 2022 at 7:22 am)

Businesses want TA form-filling process to be scrapped

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