The Cable

(V. I. Consortium) ST. CROIX — With 2,400 rooms on this island alone being rented on Airbnb, according Department of Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the Government of the Virgin Islands — which is strapped for cash and facing a budget deficit of over $100 million — has targeted the growing segment as a source of new revenues. Mrs. Nicholson-Doty revealed during a Thursday Senate hearing that the growing segment already outnumbers actual hotel rooms on St. Croix.

Speaking at his Wednesday press conference at Government House here, Governor Kenneth Mapp said that the government was in the process of negotiating with Airbnb the current USVI hotel occupancy tax of 12.5 percent, to be deducted from every unit in the territory that rents through Airbnb. The company is an online marketplace and hospitality service that enables people to list or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals and homestays.

According to the governor, Mrs. Nicholson-Doty has already negotiated with Airbnb to deduct the 12.5 percent, and the government is working towards implementation.

“The commissioner is out signing the contracts,” Mr. Mapp said at the press conference in response to a question posed by a Consortium reporter. “We’ve done the negotiations, we’ve done all those issues, we’re now going to implement this process. And then the entity will then transmit to the Bureau of Internal Revenue the amounts, and they’ll give them the spreadsheet of what it was assessed on, and they will remit that money Bureau of Internal Revenue.”

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(Reuters) Department store operator J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) said on Friday it would close 130-140 stores over the next few months, and reported a bigger-than-expected drop in same-store sales for the holiday quarter.

Shares of the company were down 2.6 percent in premarket trading on Friday, after initially rising 3 percent.

The company said it would also initiate a voluntary early retirement program for about 6,000 employees from among its home office, stores and supply chain personnel.

J.C. Penney also said it would sell a supply chain facility in Buena Park, California to "monetize a lucrative real estate asset" and close a distribution center in Lakeland, Florida.

J.C. Penney's store closures come after larger rival Macy's Inc (M.N) said in November it would shut 100 stores, as department stores struggle with weak demand for apparel and growing competition from online retailers.

"We believe closing stores will also allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers," Chief Executive Officer Marvin Ellison said in a statement.

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(Barbados Today) No more tax please!

Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has come out in full support of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommendation that this country’s rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) be lowered from 17.5 per cent to 16 per cent.

Addressing a meeting of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados here on Tuesday night, the former minister of finance also warned Government against any going the route of increased domestic taxation, saying any further reduction in the disposable income of Barbadians was bound to affect the performance of the VAT.

“So there is much merit in the proposal contained in the IMF report to lower the rate to 16 per cent, broaden the base by reducing the wide array of zero-rated and exempted transactions and hence let the VAT do the work that it was intended to do,” he said.

The VAT was introduced here back in January 1995 replacing a system with 11 taxes with a total yield of $416.32 million, or 14.25 per cent of nominal Gross Domestic Product.

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(Trinidad Guardian) Finally - FATCA legislation has flown to success.

After five months of hard battle between the Government and Opposition, legislation to facilitate the Foreign Account Taxation Agreement (FATCA) between T&T and the United States was passed in the House of Representatives at 7.48 last night, with unanimous support from both sides.

“I finally beg to move, after many months - five months,” Finance Minister Colm Imbert said with a laugh of relief, as debate and final committee examinations of the legislation concluded.

Legislation was passed with amendments in several areas with the nod of approval from all 39 Government and Opposition MPs present.

At least three Opposition votes had been required for passage.

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — President of the Decameron group of hotels, Fabio Villegas, has given a commitment to use his influence in the airline industry to secure airlifts from Latin America into Jamaica in a bid to boost tourist arrivals.

 

“We would like to work together with the Government of Jamaica and with the airlines in Latin America to share efforts to bring its tourists to Jamaican shores so that they can enjoy very much what you have here to offer,” Villegas announced during Saturday’s official opening of the 146- room Royal Decameron Cornwall Beach Resort in Montego Bay, St James.

 

“In Decameron in Jamaica, we have a lot of tourists from Canada, from Europe and from the United States. We would like to bring tourists from Latin America to Jamaica. And in order to do that, we need to improve connectivity to be able to bring Latin American airlines to your airports in Jamaica.”

 

He noted that for 11 years he was head of operations for Avianca, one of Latin America’s top airlines.

 

Villegas’s announcement was music to the ears of Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, who embraced the opportunity with open arms.

 

“My friend, Fabio Villegas, I am taking your words seriously, and we will be talking to you later on and putting some timelines to some of those ideas that you put forward. I agree with you, South America is the next frontier,” an elated Bartlett said.

 

“I want to also thank you for introducing the wider and important subject of air connectivity, which is so important to us in building our industry. And particularly, the new markets of South America, we have been having some difficulties getting the airlift from South America in the way that we want.”

 

The tourism minister outlined that Copa has served the sector with airlifts out of South America, but that the airline has “their own limitation in terms of the size of their equipment and the frequency also of their rotations”.

 

“So to hear that you have not only good connection with Avianca, that we have been searching to have a link with for a little while, but that you are willing to facilitate the connectivity, that excites me,” Bartlett said.

 

“And so I tell you that in short order we will be trekking down, Mr Paul Pennicook (tourism director) and myself, to Colombia to meet you [Villegas] and to meet Avianca because we are ready for that connectivity.”

 

Prime Minister Andrew Holness officially declared open the 146-room all-inclusive hotel built on the site of the former Cornwall Beach, which will provide 100 direct jobs and 200 indirectly.

 

Meanwhile, Villegas, who revealed that Decameron operates “32 different hotels around the region”, explained that the recently opened resort was the hotel chain’s third in Jamaica.

 

“...And we are looking forward to more in the future and to work together with all of you to put additional tourists, hotels in the island,” he remarked.

 

 

“We love the island. we are very much aware of the beauty of the island, the resources it has, and the opportunity it offers for the tourist industry.”

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