As a result of yet another ill-timed law passed by Cristina Kirchner’s government, travelers visiting from Canada, the US and Australia are now required to pay a tourist tax upon arrival in Argentina. The law went into effect late in December, 2009, and has raised grave concerns from the Argentinean tourist industry, already reeling from the effects of the last recession.
US citizens are asked to pay 138 USD for the right of entry. Although the fee is collected once during the lifetime of your passport, this isn’t a visa, and it isn’t clear how it is tracked by Argentinean authorities. Meanwhile, Canadians will be the hardest hit, since they have to forfeit seventy US dollars each time they disembark in Argentina. Australians are bilked for 100 USD. The amounts can be paid in US currency or the equivalent in Argentinean pesos. Note that this new tax is in addition to the departure tax you have to pay upon leaving. If you have dual Argentinean citizenship, then you’re exempt from paying the new tax.
The explanation given by the government for this new policy is that it’s an act of reciprocity for the costly and complicated process imposed on their own citizens when they apply for a visa to one of the three countries. Brazil was one of the first to impose reciprocity several years ago, although I should point-out that what you get is a real via, good for five years. It’s absolutely true that Argentineans are discriminated against by several economically rich countries, and the fees they’re charged for their application isn’t refunded if it’s refused. I agree this is unjust, but on the other hand, before the 2001 economic meltdown in Argentina, visas weren’t required of them – this changed when the flow of illegal immigrants from Argentina became an exodus of millions.
The real concern here isn’t whether this policy is justified, but what effect it will have on the already battered economy, where tourism is one of the most important sources of growth and foreign income. If you read the postings on this subject in online forums, you get a definite sense that the sector will take a big hit, judging from the virulent reactions of would be travelers to Argentina. If an American family of four was planning to go to Buenos Aires for a once in a lifetime vacation, they might reconsider upon discovering that their tab just went up by 552 dollars.
This tax will also have a negative impact on neighboring countries, particularly Uruguay. Many combine their visit to Uruguay with Argentina, typically landing in Buenos Aires, then traveling by Buquebus to Colonia or Montevideo. If you’re a Canadian, are you going to visit any neighboring countries knowing that you’ll be tagged for yet another 70 dollars upon returning to Argentina? The same problem arises for Canadians living in Argentina who have to renew their 3 month tourist visa, typically by crossing over to Uruguay for a brief visit. That, my friends is at least 280 dollars a year!
Currently, the tax is only collected in Ezeiza airport (Buenos Aires), probably because they haven’t fully worked-out the logistics of collecting the fees country-wide, but their plan is to extend it to all entry points, be it by land, air or water. The Kirchner administration predicts it will collect forty million dollars a year from this tax, but that is probably very optimistic in view of the dampening effect it will have. More importantly, the tourism industry will lose ten times that, thus making it a net tax revenue loss.
The Kirchners are almost guaranteed to be voted-out in the next presidential elections, so we can only hope that the next government repeals this law.
Tom Germain is a Canadian who in 2001 decided he wasn’t going to put up with any more winters and moved to Mexico. He never looked back and moved around the world every couple years, making his home in Argentina, the Canary Islands, Mauritius, and now Colombia. In his 2 blogs, Permatourist ( [http://www.permatourist.com] ) and Ocolombia ( [http://www.ocolombia.com] ) he tells of his experiences and offers invaluable tips on how you can live the life of a “permatourist”.