ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The UK government’s decision not to restructure the banding aspect of its controversial Air Passenger Duty (APD) has been described as a “slap in the face” by Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Ricky Skerritt.
“(Tuesday’s) announcement on the APD is a slap in the face for all Caribbean people. It dismisses all of the research and information CTO has provided to the British Government over the past three years, and it contradicts the message sent by the UK Chancellor George Osborne MP, in March 2011 when he cited the discrepancy between the USA and Caribbean APD rates as one of the reasons for holding a consultation on reform of UK APD,” Skerritt said.
The UK Government announced last week that a 10 per cent hike in the APD would go ahead in April next year, heaping more financial hardships on Britons travelling to this region who would have to pay even more in travel tax.
However, Antigua & Barbuda and the rest of the Caribbean had hoped the government in London would have this week reworked what they consider one of the discriminatory aspects of the tax.
But London announced on Tuesday that the controversial banding system used to calculate the rate of the APD paid by travellers is to remain in place despite strong opposition from airlines, travel operators and tourist boards.
Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation John Maginley said the decision is a serious blow and says Britain doesn’t seem to understand the damage that the travel tax is causing.
“The APD is easy hanging fruit. People are still travelling so they say it’s not affecting people travelling but its really affecting us because even though our numbers might be up a little bit up from last year, it’s (impacting) the yield,” Maginley said.
The tourism minister said the tax means that visitors arrive in the Caribbean with little to no money to spend on leisure and activities.
“People are just not spending because they are being taxed of that money out of their pockets before they even leave the UK. So it’s really having a bad effect on our economy,” Maginley said.
Skerritt said the continuance of the biased taxation system would hurt badly because of the region’s heavy dependence on tourism.
“The Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region of the world and the British Government’s decision totally ignores the negative effect that APD is having on our economies and the Caribbean’s business partners in the UK travel industry,” Skerritt said.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)