TOURISM MATTERS: Policymakers seem not aware of our market
FROM A BROADER regional perspective, the decision by Norwegian Air to operate what will initially be seasonal services to the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe is a fascinating development.
With its low fares and new aircraft it has already made a profound difference on transatlantic routes and with a quoted further 200 planes on order, the carrier clearly has many more ambitious plans on the cards.
About a year ago I contacted Bjorn Kjos, chief executive officer at Norwegian Air, after they repositioned their long- haul division to the Republic of Ireland, for all sorts of economic and other reasons, to see if they were prepared to operate a triangle service from Dublin or Belfast to Barbados and St Lucia.
The departure tax from Dublin is only three euros and there is currently no air passenger duty from Belfast on transatlantic flights, giving these proposed airports distinct lower cost advantages.
I was pleased to learn last week that discussions on this approach are ongoing with a further meeting scheduled for September. These routes are a perfect match for the airline’s new B787 Dreamliner planes.
In November this year, the carrier will commence new services to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Sweden, and London Gatwick plus St Croix, the former Danish territory, from Copenhagen, opening up a world travel possibilities.
On another note, until someone out there defines a plausible alternative, the current key to economic recovery lies largely in the hands of the tourism sector.
Increased arrival numbers, length of stay and average spend are the solutions, but rather than help make this happen, the current administration seems hell bent on making the industry less and less competitive in the global marketplace.
Then there is another staggering increase in land taxes, despite no appreciable hike in property values. Hotels that are closing for longer than six months for renovations are being forced to pay 100 per cent rather than the concessionary rate of 50 per cent, despite having no income over the period.
The imposition of value added tax on a whole range of items that are in everyday use and served to our visitors on a daily basis will result in inevitable higher operational costs and there will be no choice but to pass these on to the consumer.
And just at a time when domestic tourism initiatives are kicking in, like re-DISCOVER and staycation, where nationals and long-stay residents are being successfully tempted to spend locally, the administration announces another array of tax grabs, netting them an anticipated $200 million more annually, or simply put, what would be another $720 per man, woman and child reduction per year in disposable income.
What is also difficult to comprehend is that our policymakers do not seem to be aware of what is happening in our main visitor source markets.
In March this year, the euro fell to a seven-year low against the value of the pound sterling, resulting in European sun destinations being considerably more affordable than United States dollar pegged alternatives.
It must be obvious by now that even our privileged political elite cannot continue to ignore what is going on in the real world.
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