UK tour operator says APD not hurting Caribbean travel

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday March 29, 2012 – Arguments by Caribbean tourism officials against the British government’s increasing airline passenger duty (APD) has been dealt a blow by a new study showing that travel to the region has not been hurt by the rising costs.

In last week’s budget, the British government confirmed that the APD would rise by eight per cent – or double the rate of inflation – on April 1, adding between £4 and £28 to the cost of a holiday for a family of four.

Richard Skerritt, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and minister of tourism for St Kitts and Nevis, warned that the decision would further damage the region’s economy, which is particularly dependent on tourism.

However, research by British luxury tour operator Hayes & Jarvis suggests that APD is having little impact on visitor numbers to the region.

The Sussex-based company said that bookings to the Caribbean have risen by 37 per cent since last year. Its research is supported by the Post Office, which recently reported an increase in sales of the Barbados dollar (+12 per cent since 2011) and the Trinidad and Tobago dollar (+22 per cent).

However, the CTO maintains its claims that APD has been a contributing factor to a decline in the number of British holidaymakers visiting the Caribbean in recent years. It adds that members of the Caribbean community living in Britain have had to reduce their travel to the region, to visit friends and family, by up to a fifth.

“The news is a huge disappointment,” he said. “The rate of APD to the Caribbean is already too high and discriminates against the Caribbean because of the way that it is structured.”

Due to the way the tax is calculated, by measuring the distance from London to the destination’s capital city, those flying to the Caribbean currently contribute more in APD than those flying to California or Hawaii.

Despite ongoing protests from Caribbean governments, and months of discussions between representatives from the islands and the Treasury, the British government has refused to yield over the issue. Skerritt said he would continue to fight for APD to be reformed. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)