Thomas Cook is considering dropping UK flights to Jamaica for winter 2011-12 in the latest sign that higher rates of Air Passenger Duty (APD) are hitting demand to the Caribbean.
Jamaica tourism director John Lynch revealed Thomas Cook proposes to axe the flights for the winter season from November in a local press briefing on Friday.
Referring to Thomas Cook Airlines, Lynch told the Jamaica Observer newspaper: “We just got a proposal where they indicated they are having a problem selling seats for winter 2011-12.” No one from Thomas Cook was available to comment.
APD on economy fares to the Caribbean rose to £75 in November, and to £150 on premium economy – more than on fares to the US West Coast or Hawaii. The Jamaican authorities’ efforts to counter the impact of APD may see it raise tax on visitors to pay for increased marketing and incentives to airlines to carry on flying.
Tourism minister Edmund Bartlett said: “With all the other challenges out of the UK, we don’t want to add airlift issues.” He said the government would look to spend more on promotion and partnership arrangements with carriers, revealing he is considering a recommendation to double the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) tax on visitors. The tax is currently US$10 (£6.25) per head.
Abta is poised to launch an industry coalition, including Thomas Cook, Tui Travel and British Airways, in a campaign against further rises in APD.