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(THE SUN – TCI) — The Minister of Tourism, Hon. Ralph Higgs has assured the country that the government is, in no way, planning to enter into arrangements with Airbnb, VRBO or any other vacation rental operators.
In the Throne Speech, delivered in June by Governor of Turks and Caicos, Dr. Johhn Freeman, he promised that the Government will complete its review of the Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) Sector and finalize its discussions with Airbnb to ensure that there is no continued leakage of taxes.
In the House of Assembly on August 28, 2018, Mr. Higgs was asked by the Opposition Leader Honorable Washington Misick, if it was government’s intention to contract with Airbnb exclusively to represent vacation rentals in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Mr. Higgs responded by making it clear that that is not the government’s intention. “I would like to state categorically that is not the ministry’s intention to exclusively enter into any arrangement with Airbnb, VRBO, FlipKey or any other operators that operate under a shared economy space”, he stated.
“It is the ministry’s intention to regulate the activities of all companies operating in the shared economy space to ensure that government’s revenues are collected and standards and quality assurance of our tourism product are protected. And that is all that policy seeks to do. It is not an intention, by any means, to have an exclusive arrangement with Airbnb.”
The Opposition Leader then pushed further, urging the Premier and Minister of Tourism to be careful of following the financial policies similar to other Caribbean destinations in the villa rental industry.
“The question is whether it is the intention of the government to have a new system in place to require tax to be collected at the source by these booking agencies and then be submitted to the government, because it would seem duplicitous if airbnb has that ability but it is not available to all of the other booking engines. I just don’t understand how it would work….We tend to pride ourselves as a five-star destination and so to refer to the fact that other destinations are doing things is not sufficient reason why we have to be doing them”, he said.
Hon. Higgs said it is the intention of the ministry to have a relationship with all of the agencies that are booking vacation rental properties in Turks and Caicos Islands, but the details of how the tax will be collected and remitted falls under the mandate of the Ministry of Finance.