Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says it is imperative that the regional campaign continues for changes to the British Government’s Airline Passenger Duty (APD).
The Tourism Minister, who spoke to JIS News while in London recently, stated that the tax regime is unfair and is negatively impacting on visitor arrivals in the region.
“It is imperative that a successor regime for the APD is found and one which will be far more congenial to us and one which will enable far more equity,” he said.
“The Caribbean is at a disadvantage in terms of our neighbours, the United States (US). It is important for us to make sure that the playing field is level to give the Caribbean an equal chance to maintain its (market) share,” he added.
The APD increased on November 1 last year from £50 to £75 per person for economy class seats and from £100 to £150 for premium economy, business and first class tickets.
The APD is billed as an environmental tax by the British Government, which places countries in charging bands, based on the distance of their capital cities from London. This means that flying from London to Los Angeles or Hawaii in the US is calculated as being the same as to Washington D.C. (band B), while destinations in the Caribbean, which are in band C, are charged at a higher rate of tax.
Jamaicaand the rest of the Caribbean have argued that this is an unfair tax, which puts the region at an economic disadvantage, and have been lobbying for the region to be placed in the same band as the US.
Mr. Bartlett said that there will be a meeting on the APD with affected countries outside of the Caribbean. The meeting, which is being spearheaded by South Africa, will be held in Berlin, Germany in March.
Delegates of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) are also scheduled to meet in Berlin at the same time, for a preparatory session for an assembly scheduled for June in Kenya.
Minister Bartlett met with tourism interests in London following talks in Spain with key investors and officials of the UNWTO.
Minister Bartlett is member of the executive council of the UNWTO with responsibility for the Americas. He said that his task is to bring the English-speaking Americas fully into the membership of the UNWTO.
“We have had, in the past, a very soft relationship between the North American side and the UNWTO. My job will be, along with the Secretary General, and the Regional Director for the Americas, to bring the English-speaking North America fully into the fold of the UNWTO,” he said.
He added that this would start as early as March when he will be meeting with officials in Washington D.C. and representatives in Canada later on.
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