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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 16) – The Fiji government earns about FJ$25 million [US$15.6 million] annually from the hotel turnover tax levied on all services provided by hotel properties around the country.

The tax was initially created as the bed tax by the then Tourism Minister, David Pickering to assist in the industry's recovery following the 1987 Coup.

However, in November 2005, the tax was transformed into the hotel turnover tax where it is levied on all hotels services from meals to activities.

Last week, Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association president, Dixon Seeto urged government to consider the possibility of directing gains of the tax to marketing and promoting Fiji.

Mr Seeto said with the industry experiencing difficulties while operating with very low discount levels it was vital that funding was given by government to help in recovery. He said it was their understanding the tax would always be used to fund the Fiji Visitors Bureau's activities particularly in marketing and promoting Fiji to increase visitor arrivals.

Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry earlier said it was time the industry learnt how to rise up during difficult situations.

He said the industry should be content with FJ$10 million [US$6.2 million] allocated in the 2007 national budget.

Tourism Action Group chairman Damend Goundar said it was vital Mr Chaudhry looked carefully at the spirit in which the tax was first established.

Mr Goundar said it was important the industry received the assistance in order to recover. TAG had submitted a proposal to government for an additional FJ$3.8 million [US$2.4 million] for marketing campaigns abroad.

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