British Airways has announced plans to reduce flights to the Caribbean following a sharp rise in Air Passenger Duty.
Blaming falling passenger numbers on the punitive tax, BA chief executive, Keith Williams, confirmed the news during the Caribbean Tourism Organisation conference in St Martin.
Addressing an industry audience, Williams said: “The Caribbean is an important destination for us and we have a long heritage of serving the region.
“However, we cannot deny the reality that demand is not as high as it has been.
“Taxation is most certainly a factor in this and, sadly, a factor in our decision to reduce our frequency to the Caribbean next summer.”
He added: “We continue to protest against the rises in APD and I hope the government’s recent consultation will lead to a more equitable banding system that does not penalise the Caribbean.”
Among the reductions in capacity to the Caribbean, British Airways is expected to cancel its two weekly flights from Gatwick to Montego Bay, Jamaica, next March.
Williams explained the tax increases the cost of a flight from London to the Caribbean for a family of four by $470. Consequently, fewer people are prepared to travel.
According to a report by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, arrivals from the UK to the Caribbean are already declining, while those from other source markets are increasing.
In November 2010, it was estimated that the average decline in UK arrivals to the Caribbean would be in the region of 15 per cent, once the full impact of the latest rise in APD has taken effect.
During the first half of 2011, the impact was even greater at 20 per cent on 2008 passenger levels.
The World Travel & Tourism Council has also recently called on the British government to recalibrate the tax.
World Travel Awards
Next month, World Travel Awards will host its annual Caribbean & The Americans Gala Ceremony at Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort & Private Island in Jamaica.
The event is set to attract the top decision-makers and thought-leaders from across the Americas and Caribbean as they compete for the most influential accolades in travel.
Air Passenger Duty is sure to be hot topic of discussion, with chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne expected to confirm a double-inflation rise in APD next year in his autumn statement on November 29th.