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Tourists who want to stay longer must pay higher fees

Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards last night described an increase in fees for visitors seeking extended stays on the Island as “nonsensical” and a “throwback to an age of dinosaurs”.

He told the House of Assembly he couldn't understand why Government would make it more expensive for tourists who wanted to stay for longer periods of time in Bermuda.

“We have got to change the mind set that brings to bear something like this,” said the United Bermuda Party MP. “You are going to increase a penalty fee for our tourists to come and stay longer and spend more money.

“How nonsensical can you get! This is really a throwback to an age of dinosaurs. It's totally improper for today's day when we are scratching for every tourism dollar.”

The increased fees were approved in the House of Assembly last night as part of the Government Fees Amendment Regulations 2011.

Visitors wanting to stay up to three months will now pay $50 instead of $14 and those seeking to stay up to six months will pay $100 rather than $29.

Mr Richards said the rise in fees would affect yachtsmen and others wanting longer-term stays on the Island.

“We need to make our tourists feel welcome,” he said. “If they want to stay for more than three months, we say ‘thank goodness'. This is a classic case of red tape, unnecessary red tape, antediluvian red tape.”

Shadow Public Works Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin questioned whether those non-Bermudians who bought fractional units here and were allowed to stay all year would be subject to the fee.

She said if visitors were truly welcome in Bermuda then the fees needed to be reconsidered.

Shadow Education Minister Grant Gibbons said: “It doesn't matter if it's $29 or $100. At least for the next year or two, I think we should forget that fee, give them [visitors] a big hug and look forward to every penny they spend.

“Beggars can't be choosers and we are begging for visitors.”

Health Minister Zane DeSilva said he visited other countries for long periods and willingly paid fees for doing so.

“That's the price I'm willing to pay for the benefit I receive,” he said, adding that tourists coming to Bermuda benefited greatly and would accept having to absorb certain costs.

“Bermuda is a beautiful place. I believe that what one has to pay in order to receive these benefits is miniscule. Let's not make a mountain out of an anthill.”

Community Development Minister Glenn Blakeney said Government was “damned if it does and damned if it doesn't”.

He praised the Ministry of Finance for recognising a revenue stream and optimising it, adding: “We need revenue.”

He said the cost of the fees would be negligible to most and could be afforded by anyone who could afford to stay here for 365 days without a work permit.

The Opposition had no objections to the rest of the increased fees in the amended regulations presented by Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox.

They were: a rise from $5 to $7 in the monthly cell phone licence fee; a new fee of $150 for telecommunication apparatus certificates; and an increase in the penalty for people arriving here with insufficient documentation, from $135 to $200.

l Useful website: www.gov.bm

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Published March 08, 2011 at 8:00 am (Updated March 08, 2011 at 8:54 am)

Tourists who want to stay longer must pay higher fees

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