There are concerns that the increase in departure tax from $84 to $150 will have an impact on the number of yacht arrivals to the island. The departure tax was increased in February 2020 just before the closure of borders as the coronavirus pandemic shut down the global tourism industry.
Since the borders opened up to the yachts and seafaring visitors in October last year, the yachts have slowly returned but this may be short-lived as the word travels over the expensive cost of the departure tax.
The Niue Tourism Office has also started work to improve the facilities and processes for the yachts but BCN News understands that concerns from the travelers will see a reduction in the number of yachts visiting Niue.
Financial Secretary Doreen Okesene in an email explained that the increase in departure tax was effective from February 2020 with the Departure Tax Regulations 2020 increasing the tax from $84 and nearly doubling it to $150 per person 12 years and older, making Niue the destination with the highest departure tax.
The departure tax in Tonga is $55 Tongan Pa’anga or $39 New Zealand dollars, the departure tax in Samoa is about $38 NZ dollars or $65 Samoan Talā and in the Cook Islands the departure tax is $71 for passengers 12 years and older.
When asked why the yacht’s passengers are charged the same tax as air travelers, Okesene said that “Departure taxes cover both ports and are for a wide range of reasons and not simply amenities on offers at the ports. The wharf has seen some upgrades in the last few years, including the derrick and improvements continue”.
The Niue Yacht Club, responsible for the moorings put up 15 moorings at Alofi Bay for the yachts with the Tourism Office support with their booking system.
According to the records of the Niue Yacht Club in 2019 the government would have received more than $50,000 from the departure taxes paid by the 640 yachties or tourist arrivals on yachts, that year. But the government may lose out on tax revenue and the island will lose out on the tourist dollars from the yachts if they bypass Niue for neighbouring islands with lower departure tax.
This may be one of the issues that the new Tourist Authority Board will look into with the impacts of the high departure tax on the yacht arrivals but also on how expensive the airfares are right now as the departure tax is built into the airfare.
The new Tourist Authority Board of Directors appointed by Cabinet last month retains Vanessa Marsh as its chairperson but with new directors including Annmarie Aholima, Sefeti Fatiaki, Evan Barclay, Tom Snr Misikea and the Financial Secretary Doreen Siataga remains as one of two ex-officio on the Board including Director of Tourism Micah Fuhiniu-Viviani.
The Niue Tourist Authority is responsible for the policy and strategic direction of the tourism industry.