ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Hoteliers and airline representatives have warned government of far-reaching implications of a looming hike in airport taxes, calling for its deferral.
The concerns of the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association (AHTA) and the Airlines Association are outlined in a three-page letter sent recently to Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.
“A per passenger tax is not a sustainable solution,” the associations stated in the missive, a copy of which was obtained by OBSERVER Media.
“We request that the implementation be postponed until such a study has been performed and all tourism stakeholders consulted,” the associations said.
Parliament is mulling the Airport Administration Charge (a consolidation of the Embarkation Tax and the Passenger Facility Charge) that would be applied at a standardised rate of US $37.50 to enter and the same amount to depart the country.
This increase will fuel an estimated US $30 hike in cost for regional travellers moving through VC Bird International Airport.
Government contends this is needed to finance airport upgrades and expansion.
Hotels and airlines agree that the airport is in need of an overhaul; however they contend that it should not be to the “detriment” of the industry that contributes 74.2 per cent to the state’s Gross Domestic Product – the highest in the Caribbean.
“Creating a barrier at the point of entry in order to satisfy one stakeholder will directly penalise all the other parties that comprise the tourism industry and negatively impact the revenue streams to the government through ABST and other taxes,” the associations argue.
“As an industry that sustains the island’s economy we must express our deepest concern as to the viability of the Airport Administration Charge. The conception of the tax has been devised with no input from stakeholders, and no study of the potential impact has been performed.”
The association posited that decisions such as the ones being taken by the Antigua & Barbuda Government undermine the “credibility of the Caribbean’s campaign in the UK against the APD.”
Regional groups, including this country’s government and the AHTA, have teamed up to fight the travel tax called the Air Passenger Duty, which they say discriminates against the region.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)