ST JOHN’S, Antigua – A recent US $30 (around EC $81) tax hike on return flights to or from Antigua & Barbuda will harm visitor arrivals to the island.
That’s the warning from President of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) Richard Doming, who said it’s only a matter of time before regional governments start to feel the backlash of taxes that push up the cost of travel.
“If you take a tax that’s been charged for people to come into your country … put that onto a price of an airplane ticket, you can’t be too surprised if the demand for your product goes down,” said Doming.
The country implemented the Airport Administration Charge on November 1, which replaces the Departure Tax and the Passengers’ Facilities Charge.
The new tax makes it more expensive to travel and Doming said there should be no surprise if there is a drop in visitor arrivals.
“What worries me is governments have cut their promotional budgets and their advertising budgets as they are increasing taxes on the people who are coming. Who are their customers?
“If you increase the demand for your product and you get more people there, the money that is generated by the increase in visitors can very often offset the contemplated tax increases,” he said.
Doming added that the hoteliers continue to suffer in this tough economic climate.
Recently appointed chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Beverley Nicholson-Dotty, however, believes that the focus should not be on regionally increased airport taxes that will help develop the region’s infrastructure.
She said all eyes should be focused on the UK Air Passenger Duty (APD), which will directly affect tourism.
“I am positive that any increase has an impact on the vacation experience but I don’t believe that the increase that Antigua or any other island nation has is in any way comparable to what we are seeing with APD,” said Nicholson-Dotty.
Regional governments have continued to lobby London to remove the tax.
They say it negatively affects the growth of the tourism industry, since the Caribbean has been placed in a band that makes travel to the region much more expensive, than travelling from London to the United States.
Regional countries have argued that as a result of the APD, a family of four flying from the United Kingdom to the Caribbean now have to pay close to £400 (US $625.08) in taxes. In 2005, such a family would have paid a total of £80 (US $125.06) in taxes.
In February, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation released statistics from 23 countries that showed the region experienced a decline from the United Kingdom for a third consecutive year with officials attributing the drop to a weak British economy and increases in the APD.