There is unity within the region regarding the need for further negotiations with the United Kingdom (UK) for adjustments to their Air Passenger Duty (APD), which continues to negatively affect the Caribbean tourism market.
Minister of Tourism, Hon Edmund Bartlett (left), speaking with Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, at the 31st Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), currently underway at the Rosehall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, St. James.
This was indicated by Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, in an interview with JIS News, at the 31st Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at the Rose Hall Hotel and Spa in Montego Bay.
“We were heartened, because the Heads have indicated an interest in this matter,” Mr. Bartlett said.
He explained that while the meeting did not mandate any specific leadership position for anyone of the Heads, “it certainly took full note of it and supported the initiative that we have been pursuing, and have given the commitment to continue to ensure that the British move, as fast as possible, to alleviate the pressure the APD is causing on traffic into the Caribbean.”
Mr. Bartlett’s response to the regional concern came against the background of an estimated 19 per cent fall off in tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom last year, and implications for further fallout this year. He said that it is even more disturbing, bearing in mind that there are plans to further increase the APD by November this year.
He added that note has been taken of the fact that there is some amount of uncertainty within the new administration in Britain, as to whether they will continue the APD, or move towards a Per Plane Duty (PPD) application. He expressed uncertainty as to how the PPD would work, questioning its affordability, particularly with respect to the travel patterns of persons of the Caribbean Diaspora.
“And so we think that we are more comfortable with even keeping the APD, but re-examining the banding. As you are aware that the cost application goes in relation to each band, and there is band one, two and three. Band three is the largest application, and Jamaica and the Caribbean is in three,” he noted.
He pointed out that the United States is in band two, while highlighting the inequity of that situation.
“The way it is determined is by the distance from the capitals to London, and the US capital is Washington, so Los Angeles for example, which is much further than any of the Caribbean capitals, is treated (the same) as Washington,” he pointed out.
He said that the Caribbean lobby is seeking consideration based on a community of interest, a concept which has been known to exist in the aviation world, and for the use of Bermuda as the capital city for the Caribbean. This would equate the distance with that of Washington, making travel to the Caribbean from Britain competitive with travel from Britain to the United States.
“So that’s a huge area that we have to pursue, and we are asking the Heads to weigh in on this at the level now of the new Prime Minister of Britain,” he stated.
Air Passenger Duty (APD) is an excise duty which is charged on the carriage of passengers flying from a United Kingdom airport by aircraft with an authorised take off weight of more than ten tonnes or more than 20 seats for passengers. As a result, flight tax to the Caribbean has increased by between 25 per cent and 87 per cent, depending upon the class of travel. In November, those increases will reach as high as 94 per cent.
With statistics showing that some 1.9 million persons within the Caribbean are employed in tourism related jobs, issues relating to the industry can hardly be overlooked by the CARICOM Heads and, as such, keen attention is being paid to the concerns of the industry at the conference taking place in Montego Bay.
Mr. Bartlett is very upbeat about the attention being given to the tourism issues at the CARICOM conference.
“We think that tourism interests are very well founded and are being given good attention by the Heads, and that was an important out-turn, we think, from the deliberations this morning,” he told a press conference.