May 21, 1999

Short-Term Visitors to Baja Exempt from Mandatory Tourist Tax

Visitors who stay in Baja California's top tourist destinations for less than 72 hours won't have to pay a $15 tourist fee, which is scheduled to go into effect throughout Mexico on July 1.

Baja California Tourism Secretary Juan Tintos announced Monday that short-term visitors who visit Rosarito Beach, Ensenada and San Felipe will be exempt from the fee.

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 suffered from 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 Association.

Mexican Tourism Secretary Oscar Espinosa Villarreal announced the proposed fee in February but was soon met with protests from the tourism industry in Baja California and other border regions that are heavily-dependent 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.

Tintos said Mexico's federal government likely would modify the new rules to allow multiple-entries over a six month period to anyone who pays the fee. Currently, the government would charge for each visit.

Revenues generated by the fee will be used to boost the country's tourism industry and keep track of foreigners living in Mexico.

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