ST JOHN’S, Antigua – It’s bad news for Antiguan tourism from the British leg of the industry.
British holidaymakers were told on Tuesday that they can now expect the APD – the Air Passenger Duty to be even more costly to access destinations such as Antigua & Barbuda and the rest of the Caribbean.
The UK government has confirmed Britons will face sharp increases in the cost of flying, because it is pushing up the rate of the APD by around 10 per cent next year.
The move comes despite four major airlines in the UK and Ireland calling for the scrapping of the controversial air travel tax on November 17.
In its Autumn Statement on Tuesday, the UK Treasury said that the tax would “increase on April 1, 2012, as outlined in the 2011 Budget.”
It said, too, that owners of private aircraft are to be made liable to pay APD for the first time – but not until April 2013.
Antigua & Barbuda, like its fellow Caribbean destinations, had been hoping for a different decision, one that would have at least reduced the ADP, and at most scrap it altogether.
They’ll have to instead settle for the tax rising even further, and putting a higher cost on Britons hoping to assess Antiguan beaches, as well as UK Caribbean nationals looking forward to a holiday back home in the sunshine.
The top APD rate at present is £170, and the UK government confirmation that an increase will go ahead means travellers will have to shell out even more cash.
The APD hits hardest when people travelling as family or in groups have to pay the tax per person – a fee which can prove substantial in addition to the ticket fares.
But there could still be some relief next week, on December 6. That’s when the British government is expected to make a further announcement on the APD.
Lobbyists and those opposed to the travel tax are hoping that the announcement will signal changes to its controversial banding system under which the rate of the APD is calculated.
A review of the banding system would likely help the Caribbean because regional states currently endure a higher tax rate than neighbouring Florida and the rest of the US and Hawaii – a situation Caribbean governments and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation have described as unfair.
Whatever Britain does, the government in London will probably want to keep the APD intact, largely because it has become a huge revenue earner for British coffers.
The government hopes to recoup about £2.6 billion from the tax in 2011/12, up from £2.2 billion during the previous financial year.
According to the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), the figure will increase to £2.8 billion in 2012/13.
This equates to a double inflation rise in the rate of APD, meaning that a family of four travelling to the United States, for example, will be taxed a further £24 on top of the £240 they already pay. And that will be even more in the case of the same family travelling to a Caribbean destination.
The British media is speculating that owing to falling passenger numbers however, the rise could be even steeper.