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Tourism Ministers meet in London to urge the UK to scrap APD and save Caribbean holidays

Caribbean tourism ministers will be getting into heated discussions on the topic of the looming APD charges due to take effect from November 2010 onwards unless the new government does something to prevent it.

Tourism Ministers meet in London to urge the UK to scrap APD and save Caribbean holidays

Six Caribbean Community (CARICOM) tourism ministers and delegates from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) will be meeting in London next week to discuss changes to the British government's airline passenger tax regime. The meetings come just eight weeks before the Airline Passenger Duty (APD) is set to increase from £50 to £75 per person for economy class seats and from £100 to £150 in premium economy, business and first class.

Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean have protested that the tax is inherently unfair for Caribbean holidays and have been lobbying for changes.Countries in the Caribbean have seen UK visitor numbers fall by as much as 25 % following the increase in air passenger duty (APD) last November.

The structure of APD, as an environmental tax, suggests that the impact of a flight to Jamaica holidays or Barbados holidays is greater than one to Miami, Los Angeles or Hawaii, because countries are placed in charging bands calculated by distance from their capital city to London.

Hugh Riley, secretary general and chief executive of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, said: “We feel that the size of the delegation coming to the UK underscores the importance that the Caribbean attaches to this issue and the seriousness of our intent to minimise the possible damage that this second set of price increases will bring about.”

“The rises come at time when a second British recession is being forecast and the Caribbean governments and people feel that it is paramount that we discuss the issue with every responsible body in order to find a mutually acceptable solution as soon as possible.”

Overall, UK visitors to the region fell 12.2 during the first half of 2010. Although Riley admitted the decline was not entirely due to the increase in APD, he said it was a significant factor.

He added: “I am not suggesting that we can pinpoint APD as the only reason for the decrease, there is also the economy and other factors to take into consideration, however I am telling you that the majority of Caribbean countries have seen larger decreases from the UK than from anywhere else.”

The ministers and the CTO delegates are expected to meet with British government officials, members of the British Air Transport Association, major tour operators and airlines, and also with the British Caribbean All Party Parliamentary Group.

The new coalition government has pledged to scrap APD and replace it with a system that taxes per plane rather than per passenger, which aims to target inefficient planes and discourage airlines from flying half-empty aircrafts. However, during his emergency budget speech, Chancellor George Osborne said that any major changes would be subject to public consultations, and delayed a decision on scrapping APD until the autumn.

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