Lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday night that will establish a $10 tourist arrival levy, intended to stockpile money for an environmental protection fund.

The tax will apply to visitors entering the Virgin Islands by air or sea, and will exempt certain judicial officials, government guests and diplomaticrepresentatives from other countries, according to the most recent public draft of the bill, which is titled Environment Protection and Improvement Fund Act, 2017.

The bill requires operators of vessels and aircrafts on which passengers arrive in the territory to include the $10 in the cost of their tickets, and transfer those earnings to the VI government.

“It has become very evident to us that if we are going to have sustainable tourism, we’ve got to protect the environment,” Deputy Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering said Tuesday while seconding a motion for the second reading of the bill. “In our budgetary allocations, more often than not, the environment is not one of our higher priorities in terms of the daily needs of our people.”

Dr. Pickering, who also serves as the minister of natural resources and labour, said this levy is a good way to rectify that, by asking tourists to help preserve the beautiful environment they get to visit.

Government plans to direct the money towards environmental protection, climate change initiatives, the maintenance of tourist sites and “the marketing of the territory as a premier tourist destination,” according to the bill’s draft, which was Gazetted on March 23.

See the April 20, 2017 edition for full coverage.