Caribbean tourism leaders have told European Union officials the UK’s air passenger duty on flights to the region is “discriminatory”.
Lolita Applewhaite, secretary general of the 15-member Caricom group of countries which includes Barbados and Jamaica, told European legislators: “We view APD as discriminatory against Caribbean destinations.”
Applewhaite addded: “This is a tax on our development. Air travel represents the only way for tourists to reach our region from Europe.”
The region’s latest tourism figures show UK arrivals to the Caribbean fell 6% last year on 2009 and are down almost 30% since 2007. The decline is significant as UK visitors account for almost one quarter of tourists from Europe and a high proportion of all visitors to some countries. More than one third of all visitors to Barbados are from the UK.
Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) chairman Ricky Skerritt, tourism minister for St Kitts and Nevis, told European officials: “The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. Our future development relies to a significant extent on tourism.”
The sector is the Carbbean’s biggest employer after the public sector which, in turn, depends to a significant extent on tourism funding.
The CTO has lobbied the UK government to change its APD banding system which imposes a higher tax on flights to the Caribbean than to the US and Hawaii, and to cut the rate on long-haul flights in general. It suggests a rise in APD on short-haul flights from £12 to £16 to compensate the Treasury.
Chancellor George Osborne is due to announce his plans for APD in the Budget next week, with the UK travel industry united behind a campaign demanding a Fair Tax on Flying.