Tourism chamber also seeks lawmaker action on key bills

The tourism chamber wants action from the Asamblea Legislativa, too. They join a line of organizations and individuals seeking passage of certain bills.

The Cámera Nacional de Turismo favors six proposals, but only two have been placed on the legislature’s consent agenda. One is 17.128 that approves a $19 million loan from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo to finance tourism programs in protected forest areas. The second is 17.410, which is a reform of the alcohol law.

The alcohol measure does not have the content the tourism chamber wants. The organization is seeking elimination of the Holy Week dry law that forbids sales of alcohol on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

The chamber said in a release that the dry law was an obsolete measure. Bar and restaurant owners lose many sales in those two days, which also happen to be periods of high tourism.

Bills that did not make the priority agenda include one to stimulate accessible tourism in Costa Rica and one to stimulate tourism development in Puntarenas and Limón. There also is a measure to exclude tips from the wages of waiters and bar tenders.
Some restaurants have closed for a day or two to protest the proposal to include tips as wages. Employees would have to pay 9 percent of their tips to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, and the employer would have to pay at least 23 percent. And employees would have to include this money in whatever tax return they file.

Tourism operators said this is ruinous.

Costa Rican law requires the addition of 10 percent of the price of a meal for table service even if the service is below par. Diners have the option of enhancing the tip.

Some lawmakers support the taxing of tips because it provides a better picture of a restaurant employee’s real salary for purposes of credit and home purchasing.

The chamber says it is seeking more attention from government and plans to meet with the legislature’s tourism committee to air its positions.

The Cámera Nacional de Turismo is being challenged by the new ProTur organization which says it has 500 firms as members. ProTur has a specific agenda that it has presented to some lawmakers to cut costs for tourism operators.

The Cámera Nacional was slow to respond to the steep decline in the tourism business.

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