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To the Relief of Travel Business, Mexico Lifts Tourist Tax for Short Trips to Baja

May 19, 1999|Associated Press

Backtracking from a tourist tax set to go into effect July 1, Mexican officials announced that foreign visitors who stay in Baja California's top tourist destinations for less than 72 hours won't have to pay a $15 fee.

So day or weekend visitors to Ensenada and San Felipe won't have to pay the tax. Those staying longer, however, will.

Tourism officials on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border praised the decision, saying that although the fee has yet to go into effect, the travel industry has been hurt by cancellations.

"It's not even being charged yet, but people are thinking that it is, and we've suffered from a drop in reservations," said Victor Manuel Rodriguez, president of the San Felipe Developers Assn.

Just last week, the mayor of Ensenada wrote to Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo asking him to reconsider the tourist tax and make all of Baja tax-exempt because of its dependence on short-term visitors from the United States.

Mexican officials say they are following the lead of other countries that levy tourist fees, including the United States, which charges Mexicans $45 for a tourist visa application.

The tourism ministry said the government would probably modify the new rules to allow multiple entries over a six-month period to those who pay the fee. Currently, the government would charge for each visit.

Revenue generated by the fee will be used to boost the country's tourism industry and upgrade the immigration system.

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