A high-level Caribbean delegation has begun a three-day lobby in the UK today against what it sees as unfair increases in airport passenger duty to the region.
The delegation, which includes six Caribbean tourism ministers including Jamaica’s Edmund Bartlett, argues that it is wrong that those travelling to the Caribbean should pay more than those going to further away such as Hawaii.
From November 1 this year, the amount of APD Britons travelling to the Caribbean pay will have risen by up to 94 per cent in just two years. This means a family of four travelling to the Caribbean in premium economy will pay around £600 in duty alone.
Countries in the Caribbean have seen UK visitor numbers fall by as much as 25 percent following the increase in air passenger duty (APD) last November.
Hugh Riley, secretary general and chief executive of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, said: “We feel that the size of the delegation coming to the UK underscores the importance that the Caribbean attaches to this issue and the seriousness of our intent to minimise the possible damage that this second set of price increases will bring about.”
“The rises come at time when a second British recession is being forecast and the Caribbean governments and people feel that it is paramount that we discuss the issue with every responsible body in order to find a mutually acceptable solution as soon as possible.”
Overall, UK visitors to the region fell 12.2 during the first half of 2010. Although Riley admitted the decline was not entirely due to the increase in APD, he said it was a significant factor.
He said: “I am not suggesting that we can pinpoint APD as the only reason for the decrease, there is also the economy and other factors to take into consideration, however I am telling you that the majority of Caribbean countries have seen larger decreases from the UK than from anywhere else.”
Destinations are categorised into four APD bands. Zones are pegged to capital cities so anyone visiting the Caribbean will pay more in APD than someone visiting Los Angeles on the west coast of the States because the capital, Washington D.C. is on the east coast of the country. Hawaii also falls in same category but is 3,000 miles further away from London than Barbados.
The new coalition government has pledged to scrap APD and replace it with a system that taxes per plane rather than per passenger, which aims to target inefficient planes and discourage airlines from flying half-empty aircrafts.
However, during his emergency budget speech, Chancellor George Osborne said that any major changes would be subject to public consultations, and delayed a decision on scrapping APD until the autumn.