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New tax could push cruise ships away from Caldera

February 20, 2013

Tourists arriving by cruise ship at the Central Pacific port of Caldera and staying less than 12 hours in the country now have to pay a new $3 tax on top of $4.99 charged by the Port Authority.

The $3 fee kicked in when a new law, Ley 9111, went into effect on Feb. 5 as a financing mechanism for providing funds to the Municipality of Esparza. It makes Caldera “the most expensive port in the country for cruise ship tourists,” said Miguel Mena, president of the Costa Rican Association of the Cruise Industry (ACIC) and owner of a tour company.

Data provided by ACIC shows that a 1,000-passenger cruise would pay in the ports of Golfito and Quepos (South Pacific) $3,120, because none of those municipalities charge extra taxes to visitors in transit.

In Puntarenas, the same cruise would pay $4,620, which includes the tax for 1,000 passengers, plus $1,500 for the new tax to the municipality, while in the Caribbean province of Limón, the cruise ship would pay $3,590.

But all of these figures are lower than the $7,999 that cruise ships will pay now if they decide to dock in Caldera, Mena said.

“It is most likely that cruise ships will decide to dock in Puntarenas or Golfito, or even worse, decide to go to Balboa [Panama] or at some port in Nicaragua,” he added.

For the 2012-2013 cruise season, Costa Rican port authorities expect 161 cruises, with 106 docking in the Pacific and 55 in Limón.

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