Things look set to become more expensive for yacht owners and boat users in and around the British Virgin Islands with a whopping 200% increase in departure tax. The BVI Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Finance are hiking up the departure tax for residents and non-residents leaving the British overseas territory via water transportation.
The tax is currently $5 per person. The tax increase, which will go into effect Aug. 1, will make the tax $10 per person for residents and $15 for non-residents.
The increased tax will be for people leaving the BVI via any kind of water transport, including but not exclusive to ferries, charter boats and private boats.
Orlando Smith, premier of the British Virgin Islands said that the hike in the tax will absorb some of the revenue that the territory has lost since fewer people are traveling to and from the territory by plane, and more are visiting by boat.
Few of the people who frequently visit the BVI, either on the weekends or on vacation, are pleased with the new tax.
“It’s just such a big increase,” said Hollis Jenkins, of New Horizons and Breakaway Charters, based at Sapphire Beach and Marina.
Jenkins and other local charter owners are concerned that the new fees will discourage tourists from traveling to the BVI because many of the charters would need to increase their charges.
“I can’t see anything good coming from this,” Jenkins said.
“It’s pretty steep. The charter companies are already operating to the bone as it is,” said Kelly Kiernan, director of the Virgin Islands Charter Yacht League.
“A few of our boats already have explored staying in the U.S. or going on shorter trips,” Kiernan said. More boats may choose to do the same because of the tax increase, she said.
Travellers who are privately touring the region, or who are based in the U.S. Virgin Islands, also may stay within the U.S. territory to avoid the extra expense.
Bruce White, manager of the St. Thomas Yacht Club, said he expects more people will try to skirt the tax by avoiding the area.
Others may try to sneak into the territory without paying it, such as a few people did earlier this month, he said. However, they got caught, and the local authorities put them in jail, he said.
“They keep making it harder and harder to play there,” White said of the BVI. “I think it’s definitely going to make people think twice.”