Officials at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation have welcomed a decision by UK chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne to cut Air Passenger Duty on long-haul flights departing from Northern Ireland.
The decision was confirmed at the end of September and will see the direct long-haul rate of APD fall to the lower short-haul rate - £12 per passenger in economy and £24 for business and first class passengers.
The decision is being seen as a sign the UK government is giving consideration to the issues raised about APD arising out of its stakeholder consultation on APD reform.
The reduction in APD for Northern Ireland “acknowledges the importance of vital air routes” to the economy and the positive impact that aviation can have on economic growth and sustainable job creation, argued the CTO.
CTO chairman, Richard Skerritt said: “It is because of the value of tourism to the Caribbean the CTO has been actively engaging with the UK government to ensure that it understands why the region takes this issue so seriously.
“We look forward to the UK government’s response to the APD consultation, due this autumn, and hope that the outcome not only rectifies the discriminatory aspect of the banding system but that it seeks to provide a solution to the problem of the impact that very high long haul APD rates is having on people’s choice of destination and scheduled carriers decisions on where and when to fly.”
The Northern Ireland case is confirmation that the travelling public is paying increasing attention to the cost of flights and that they are willing to travel further to catch a flight if it saves them money, argued CTO.
The UK government’s decision to reduce APD levels in Northern Ireland follows clear evidence that passengers were prepared to travel from Belfast to Dublin where levels of ticket tax are significantly lower at €3 (approximately £2.50) per passenger compared with £75 in economy and £150 in premium cabins from Belfast.
Officials had feared that present high levels of APD would have ended transatlantic air services to Northern Ireland and jeopardised the province’s economy.