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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg has set a meeting March 23 between V.I. officials and cruise-industry representatives in hopes of negotiating an increase in the territory's head tax.
The meeting was prompted by unhappy exchanges at this week's Sea Trade Conference in Miami, which brings together thousands of cruise-industry officials.
The No. 1 bone of contention involving V.I. officials is Sen. David Jones' proposal to raise the head tax on cruise ship passengers from $7.50 to $10, with the additional $2.50 going into the General Fund. Cruise industry officials oppose any hike in the head tax.
"This meeting is essential in order to preserve this territory's longstanding relationship with the cruise ship industry," Donastorg said in a release. "It is important that we immediately sit down at the table and iron these things out in order to ensure the U.S. Virgin Islands' continued success as a port of call."
Donastorg spokeswoman Nicole Bollentini said "things aren't going quite as smoothly in negotiations" as hoped in Miami, and thus "he and Michelle Paige (president of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association) feel it's very important to have this kind of summit here, mostly to do with the head tax."
Paige has already said she'll attend the March 23 meeting, Bollentini said.
Representatives of various cruise lines were also invited, including Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Costa Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.
V.I. officials invited include Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II, all members of the 23rd Legislature and representatives of the West Indian Co. Ltd. and the Port Authority .
Donastorg said he supports an increase in the head tax, "but there is a need to negotiate fairly" with cruise-industry officials. "These revenues can be directed toward services and infrastructural enhancements that benefit cruise passengers and the hospitality industry at large," he said. "Government must be run as a business and we must turn a profit in order to pay our obligations to the vendors and government employees that help maintain these beautiful islands." Donastorg said that negotiation requires compromise from all parties involved. "We should not walk away from the table empty-handed – it is time cruise ships pay their fair share," Donastorg said. "Cruise ship passengers utilize our roads, beaches, reefs, sewage systems, landfills and many other local resources and services. We need to be fairly compensated in order to sustain our infrastructure and preserve our environment – we need to be paid what we are worth and what covers the legitimate cost of hosting millions of cruise ship passengers each year."

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