Caribbean tourism sector sees US, Canada visitor increase as UK declines

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday December 18, 2012 – The Caribbean tourism industry continued to show signs of recovery during 2012 fuelled by improvements in the United States and Canadian markets.

But Secretary General of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Hugh Riley in a  Christmas message warned that the region continued to face challenges in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom market from which the numbers have been falling.

He said visitor spending has also been sluggish.

Riley said that the latest figures on visitor arrivals show a five per cent increase rise and “there are clear signs that our performance in the US, our region’s main source market, is improving, with arrival numbers up by 5.3 per cent”.

He said the Canadian market has also showed growth, with total arrivals matching the US at 5.3 per cent.

“The UK, on the other hand, has recorded a decline of over six per cent. The Summer Olympics did have some effect, leading to marginal growth in the UK economy, which is still struggling to rebound”.

But Riley said that a factor which the region cannot ignore is the “unfair and discriminatory” Air Passenger Duty (APD) that is continuing to have a severe impact on the Caribbean tourism sector.

The APD, instituted in 1994, is a British environmental tax aimed at offsetting aviation’s carbon footprint. In its initial stage, it was set at £5 (US$7.85) per person.

Regional governments have been lobbying London to remove the tax, which they said negatively affects the growth of the tourism industry since the Caribbean has been placed in a band that makes travel to the region much more expensive than travelling from London to the United States.

“Much to the disappointment and frustration of the Caribbean, this crippling tax is due to rise even further in April 2013 while the discriminatory aspect of the distance ‘banding’ system remains. A family of four visiting the Caribbean and flying in economy will be expected to fork out 332 pounds sterling for APD – and double that amount for a few extra inches of leg room if they fly in any class above economy,” Riley said.

Riley noted that on  the contrary, that same family would pay less APD to fly to US destinations that are far further away from London than any Caribbean country.

“This is an issue the CTO and its member countries and partners will continue to fight.”

But he said despite the many challenges which the Caribbean faced, “we got through 2012 with our chins up and our resolve unfazed.

“Many of our member-countries have scored major successes regionally and internationally, often parlaying those wins to the benefit of their tourism sector. 

“We at the CTO have been energized by our new vision “To position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination by 2017” and the recently elected  CTO chairman, Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty has begun her two-year tenure with a pledge to refocus attention on urgent and essential areas including aviation”.

He said she immediately established an Aviation Task Force to develop solutions to the region’s aviation problems, including the issue of taxation.

“As we prepare to enter 2013, we look forward to working more closely with all of members and partners.  As the international agency that leads tourism development in the Caribbean, we know there are plenty of opportunities to improve the quality and the value of the services we provide. We take our responsibility seriously and will use every resource available to us to improve the quality of life of all Caribbean people through tourism.” (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)