Monday, July 12, 2010

There's Plenty of Room at the Hotel Tegucigalpa

Today my dad and youngest sister left to go to Honduras on a missions trip. Among other necessities (like malaria pills), they had to make sure they had enough money to leave the country a week later. That's right. Leave.

See, Honduras has a classy, friendly thing called an "exit tax." This ensures that every visit is a little bit like The Eagles "Hotel California" - where you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. It's free to get into the country, but in a reverse-psychology "thank you, come again" moment, it costs around $35 to leave.

In order to make sure people have enough cash to leave the country, it seems like you have to broadcast it a little bit. Since you typically pay for the privilege of ENTERING cool places, and EXITING yicky ones, this leads the potential traveller to dissociate "theme park" "vacation" "nightclub" and "Honduras," and instead match it with things like "prison" "auto body shops" and "dentists." In other words, the exit tax usually belongs on unenjoyable things - so, because humans are great generalizers, we see that this probably doesn't make Honduras count as a "fun" place.

Now, granted, you might be saying that their political and economic structure, climate, or large bugs might not make it the prime place for a sweet vacation. That being said, if you want to get people into your country (people bring revenue, at least in theory), it's usually best to make it sound as appealing (not appalling) as possible. Or not punishing it would be a good start. Taxes of any kind work to reduce the taxed behavior - so exit taxes theoretically reduce exiting (but as a side effect might also reduce entering), inheritance taxes reduce your incentive to get along with your wealthy relatives, income taxes reduce earnings. Taxes are an instant wet blanket - smothering tourism, happy families, and good jobs in their wake.

All that being said, my dad and sister are in Honduras out of the goodness of their hearts, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and provide medical care to Hondurans. Exit tax or no exit tax, they've gone. If it weren't for poorly-planned economic policies like the exit tax though, perhaps we'd see a Honduras less like Hotel California, and more like a hotel in California.

I learned about Honduran exit taxes while in:
Grayish-brown pencil skirt, brown ribbed tank, three-quarter-length-sleeved white and gray leopard-print sweater, black belt, black and blue bangles, abalone shell disk earrings, and brown peep-toe "almost-a-bootie-but-so-much-cuter" heels.

No comments:

Post a Comment