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Move to get passenger tax cut


rhondathompson, [email protected]

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A HIGH-LEVEL Caribbean delegation, including Barbados’ Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy, yesterday began a three-day lobby in Britain against what it sees as unfair increases in airport passenger duty (APD) to the region.
According to the industry website, Breaking Travel News (BTN), the delegation, which also includes five other Caribbean tourism ministers, argues that it is wrong that those travelling to the Caribbean should pay more than those going to more distant places such as Hawaii.
From November 1 this year, the amount of APD Britons travelling to the Caribbean pay would have risen by up to 94 per cent in just two years. This means a family of four travelling to the Caribbean in premium economy will pay around £600 (BDS$1 843) in duty alone.
Countries in the Caribbean have seen British visitor numbers fall by as much as 25 per cent following the increase in APD last November.
Hugh Riley, secretary general and chief executive of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), said: “We feel that the size of the delegation coming to the UK underscores the importance that the Caribbean attaches to this issue and the seriousness of our intent to minimise the possible damage that this second set of price increases will bring about.
“The rises come at a time when a second British recession is being forecast and the Caribbean governments and people feel that it is paramount that we discuss the issue with every responsible body in order to find a mutually acceptable solution as soon as possible.”
Overall, British visitors to the region fell 12.2 per cent during the first half of 2010.
Although Riley admitted the decline was not entirely due to the increase in APD, he said it was a significant factor.
“I am not suggesting that we can pinpoint APD as the only reason for the decrease,” he said. “There is also the economy and other factors to take into consideration. However, I am telling you that the majority Caribbean countries have seen larger decreases from the UK than from anywhere else.”
Destinations are categorised into four APD bands. Zones are pegged to capital cities, so anyone visiting the Caribbean will pay more in APD than someone visiting Los Angeles on the west coast of the United States because the capital, Washington DC, is on the east coast of the country. Hawaii also falls in the same category but is 3 000 miles farther away from London than Barbados.
The new coalition government in Britain has pledged to scrap APD and replace it with a system that taxes per plane rather than per passenger, which aims to target inefficient planes and discourage airlines from flying half-empty aircraft.
However, during his emergency budget speech, Chancellor George Osborne said any major changes would be subject to public consultations, and delayed a decision on scrapping APD until the autumn. (AB)

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