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TOURISM MATTERS: British govt can argue for APD


ADRIAN LOVERIDGE

TOURISM MATTERS: British govt can argue for APD

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THERE are different versions, but my favourite is when the “going gets tough, the tough get creative”.
It probably comes from spending most of my working life trying to turn tiny marketing budgets into big picture realities.
What prompted this was reading the classified section of the local papers and seeing one of our accommodation competitors renting its rooms by the hour.
Concluding that this property is targeting a particular niche clientele, we cannot let any market share be eroded. We think therefore that in many cases, hourly rates might be too optimistic, so, of course, the obvious answer is to offer a per-minute rate.
Flippancy aside, now is the time, with a tourism-driven economy to explore every possible opportunity to recover lost ground.    
It’s hard to imagine how Willie Walsh, British Airways’ chief executive officer, could have been any more supportive to try to limit any increases in advanced passenger duty (APD) next month.
His comments were carried locally, regionally and internationally, appearing in every major circulation newspaper in Britain.
Not only is it a direct threat to the world’s most tourism-dependent economies here in the Caribbean, but as Mr Walsh pointed out, it has a potentially devastating effect on employment and airline growth in Britain.
Together with the concerted effort of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, ministers of tourism throughout the region, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and various other tourism trade bodies, any British politician who has not heard the passionate objections to the tax or planned increases must be hiding under a very large rock.
As someone who makes a living from tourism, I share their objections, but sadly, the new British coalition government can argue the issue.
“We”, are asking a sovereign nation to remove or reduce taxes based on the premise that these increases will further erode the arrival of British long-stay visitor numbers.
Isn’t this the same argument that many of us in the industry have been using to plead with Caribbean governments to reduce or eliminate the high taxes imposed on intra-regional travel?
Justification for tax
The justification for our departure tax, one of the highest in the Caribbean, is said to support financially the cost of the airport infrastructure and operational costs.
But if this is the case, why isn’t the same principle applied to the seaport?
How much does the average embarking cruise ship passenger pay in tax when joining at Bridgetown Port or transiting the facility?
Our Government charges 15 per cent VAT on all air travel purchased here.
What rate of VAT is charged on cruise packages?
We are always talking about equity and fairness, but if we are competing on a level playing field, then it has to be across the board.
Ultimately, governments have to reach the conclusion that they can only extract taxes from people in so many ways. If you make a destination perceived as too expensive, those people will choose somewhere else to spend their already taxed income.
If they do not arrive, then Government does not collect VAT on accommodation, car rental, dining experiences, activities, attractions and shopping.

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